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Will China lead the 'chip revolution?'



May 31, 2021, 10:47

Sometimes we call chips silicon, since almost all chips, or integrated circuits (ICs), are built on silicon boards.

But this element has its limits. If you've been paying attention to the chip industry, you would have heard the world "process," which often comes in nanometers (nm), signifying the density of transistors in a chip.

We humans took only 20 years to advance the tech from 130 nm chips like Intel's Pentium 4 to 5 nm chips like Huawei Kirin 9000.

What's the lowest number for silicon chips? The answer is probably 0.2 nm, since that's the size of a silicon atom. If you divide the atom, it's no longer silicon.

Though there may still be years or decades ahead before silicon reaches its limit, many people are already thinking about the next material.

Among them stand the Chinese government. On May 14, Vice-Premier Liu He held a meeting to discuss how to build a better system for sci-tech innovation.

In addition to that big topic, the meeting also discussed the "potentially revolutionary IC tech targeting the post-Moore's Law era."

Moore's Law is a golden rule that the chip industry has been following for the last few decades. It means the density of ICs double every two years.

Note that the law is not a law in physics, but merely an observation of what happened in the chip industry.

With silicon reaching its limit, the industry needs a new material to keep the pace with the law and maintain fast development of computers and smartphones alike.

Why is China so interested in this topic? After the U.S.-led Western world started the chip tech lockdown, China is eager to speed up local chip industry chains.

But such effort can be hard and costly because China is years or even decades behind the West in terms in chip tech.

So, China is considering the future: Maybe they can be the world's first to find the new material.

In the eyes of many Chinese semiconductor insiders, the industry has been through two ages and is moving into the third: Si-based computer chips, GaAs-based mobile network chips and the unknown new world.

One possible material is GaN, which we can already see in latest smartphone chargers. These chargers can juice up a phone 20 times faster than the one that comes with iPhone 11. What's more, the new chargers build up heat at a much slower speed.

In addition to materials, the structure of computers may also face significant changes. After the Huawei ban from the U.S., the Chinese computer companies have all realized the risk behind the Arm and Intel x86 architectures. Instead of using commercial ones, they are exploring more open standards like RISC-V.

Some experts in China are even talking about more basic changes like abandoning binary and adopt a more brain-like way of computing.

All in all, China's way to achieve self-reliance on chips may not be catching up with the world but exploring another path.

7 377
emanreus post time: 2021-06-02 14:45

Obviously a household name from the fifteenth century.

Newtown post time: 2021-06-01 21:45

That ol'chips would elevate your standing towards 31 functional qubits on ea. shoulder.

 You may read more in the scientific journal Science.    This quantum computer prototype processor was named Zu Chongzhi after the accomplished Chinese mathematician from the fifth century.

emanreus post time: 2021-06-01 13:31

Should I say that balance is because I have chips on both shoulder?

wchao37 post time: 2021-06-01 08:02

The national purpose population project might not be going so well.

Newtown post time: 2021-05-31 20:43

congrats are on order.

  Probably one of your most balanced statement I came across. 


More likely than not, the Chinese will find the next material appropriate for development, for the simple fact that a national purpose for the project has been fashioned.

By definition, the atomic size of that material has to be smaller than 0.2 nm, which is the size of a silicon atom.

Maybe they can just go down on the Periodic Table and try to find such an element, or they can find it on another planet -- such as Mars and Venus -- or even our own Moon (which is more unlikely, considering the earthly origin of the Moon itself).


"Maybe they can be the world's first to find the new material." Maybe not.