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What Limits Computers From Getting Smaller and More Powerful?

Computers have radically transformed industry, commerce, entertainment, and governance while shrinking to become ubiquitous handheld portals to the world.

This progress has been driven by the industry's ability to continually innovate techniques for packing increasing amounts of computational circuitry into smaller and denser microchips. But with miniature computer processors now containing millions of closely packed transistor components of near atomic size, chip designers are facing both engineering and fundamental limits that have become barriers to the continued improvement of computer performance.

What are the limiting factors in the development of computing systems? These factors will help determine what is achievable, identifying "loose" limits and viable opportunities for advancements through the use of emerging technologies. These limits exist in the areas of manufacturing and engineering, design and validation, power and heat, time and space, as well as information and computational complexity. When a specific limit is approached and obstructs progress, understanding the assumptions made is key to circumventing it. Chip scaling will continue for the next few years, but each step forward will meet serious obstacles, some too powerful to circumvent.

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