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See Inside July 2005

Shrinking Circuits with Water

Semiconductor manufacturers are giving their products a dousing in the name of faster, smaller, cheaper

Physicist Giovanni Battista Amiciplaced a drop of liquid on a specimen in his Florence laboratory, improving the quality of the image seen through his microscope's eyepiece. Now, 165 years later, the global semiconductor industry is just getting around to adopting Amici's innovative technique.

The decision to baptize chips under a thin liquid stratum will allow the making of circuits with features that measure the breadth of a virus. Such a retro solution--the 19th century meets the 21st--also serves as a fitting commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the semiconductor industry's most influential technical paper, a treatise by Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore entitled "Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits." Moore's prediction that the number of transistors on a chip would double every 12 months (later revised to every 24 months) transmuted from mere forecast into ironclad edict, the equivalent of a law of nature that ordains that the industry will suffer some unspecified but assuredly grievous injury if chip power does not continue to grow in exponential leaps every two years.

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