It's a constant theme at IDF over the years, "When are we going to hit a showstopper that halts the progress of Moore's Law?"
But that showstopper is not going to happen in the next 10 years, as transistor-shrinking guru and Intel Senior Fellow Mark Bohr's team is well on its way to looking down the 5nm lithography.
Next year's Haswell CPU will be on almost the same 22nm process as Ivy Bridge.
Though that production process has been slightly altered for the new chip, the big performance boost in Haswell is still coming from the changing microarchitecture.
On track for development
After that we'll be looking at the Haswell architecture moving down to the 14nm lithography with the subsequent Broadwell CPUs. "14nm technology is in its full development mode now and on track for production readiness by the end of next year," says Bohr. We should then start to see full 14nm CPUs following that up in 2014.
"Beyond that," says Bohr, "our research group is looking at a wide range of ideas - some exotic, some more evolutionary - that will be chosen ultimately for 10, 7 and 5nm processes."
"Right now I'm personally spending my time on 10nm pathfinding, we haven't made all those decisions yet, but it looks like we have a solution for 10nm."
Both the 14nm and 10nm lithographies will still use the same Tri-Gate transistors that were introduced with the Ivy Bridge architecture, but it doesn't stop there as the research team is working right now on finding solutions for moving down to even smaller production processes.
"We have some pretty bright research engineers," says Bohr, "and I'm confident we'll have solutions for 7nm and 5nm."
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