For years, makers of computer processors have worked to shrink the size of their components. The smaller your circuits and gates, after all, the more you can fit on a wafer, and the more work a processor can do per unit of area. Intel has traditionally done a die shrink every other year, and reorganized their chips on the “off” years. Interestingly, I wrote two years ago about how engineers considered the switch from 22nm to 16nm to be “insurmountable.” Guess they surmounted it!
Actually, Intel’s CTO (you have to be kind of smart to have that job) said at the time that we’d hit the wall sometime in the next ten (now eight) years. Certainly that hasn’t happened yet, as it seems that Intel already has 15nm chips on their roadmap. 15nm is a ridiculously small amount of space; if you were 15nm tall, you’d constantly be getting knocked over by atoms.
In order to maintain Moore’s Law, at some point we’ll have to change things drastically, like stacking processor layers and cooling them with nanocanals. I know, sounds like science fiction, and it is — today. But 15nm-based processors were science fiction a couple years ago, and here we are.