Feature

Shrinking toward the Ultimate Transistor

Electronic devices go atomic: Is this really the end?

By
7:49pm, August 5, 2002

In the half-century since the transistor was invented, this workhorse component of almost every electronic device has shrunk from the size of a pencil eraser to smaller than a bacterium. The miniaturization of transistors and their sister circuit components has led to an explosion of machine intelligence in countless types of devices from computers to greeting cards. Just how much smaller transistors can get is a multibillion-dollar question. Theorists have long pondered, When will the shrinkage finally be brought to a screeching halt? If components get too small, the laws of physics seem to preclude reliable transistor action.

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