Huawei Chip Shows US Curbs Are Porous, Not Useless
Comment of the Day

September 04 2023

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Huawei Chip Shows US Curbs Are Porous, Not Useless

This article from Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

It’s highly unlikely Chinese chipmakers can squeeze more out of old tools to get them beyond 5nm, which means they’ll be stuck while foreign rivals continue to advance. And if they do make further breakthroughs, the US and its allies have plenty of ways to tighten up their curbs, including broadening the scope of the equipment ban and adding materials to the list. 

Eoin Treacy's view

Predictability in the semiconductor sector ended in 2017 when the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors was last published. Instead of 18 months it now takes around 30 months to deliver the next generation of chips. That’s what the end of Moore’s Law amounts to.

As the physical limits of silicon are approached, the difficulty of cooling a chip becomes exponentially more difficult. A silicon atom has a diameter of around 0.2nm, so transistors with a diameter of 3nm are already very close to the physical limits of the atom. This has created a bottleneck in chip innovation because totally new technology will be required to deliver fresh innovation.

The reason new computers come with both a CPU (central processing unit) and GPU (graphics processing unit) reflects that bottleneck. Nvidia’s success is based on providing chips designed specifically for a dedicated task. That limits potential but maxes out utility for that single use case. The model works well because most chips are only used for a small number of similar functions.

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