Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Contributed articles

Can Beyond-CMOS Devices Illuminate Dark Silicon?

light bulb with circuit filament

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates / Shutterstock

For more than 50 years, Moore's Law has been the fundamental economic driver of the microprocessor industry,17 seeing the number of (CMOS) on-chip transistors doubles with each technology generation. As a corollary, microprocessor performance also doubles as a result of transistor scaling from Dennard scaling6 and Pollack's Rule.4 Unfortunately, performance-scaling trends have abated due to increased sub-threshold leakage current and decreased supply-voltage scaling.3 Consequently, computer architects have adopted multi-core architectures in an attempt to maintain processor performance scaling via parallel processing.4

Back to Top

Key Insights


While multi-core processors have succeeded in delivering modest (approximately linear) performance gains, projections indicate they will encounter a power wall as transistors continue to scale.7 Specifically, Esmaeilzadeh et al.7 suggested that as the number of transistors continues to double, power densities will approach the physical and economical limits of a chip's thermal design power (TDP), necessitating the selective activation of on-chip devices. This phenomenon is colloquially referred to as "dark silicon"7 and has inspired a range of solutions,27 including "beyond-CMOS" devices,1 "dim silicon" cores,8 customized accelerators,28 and even combinations of all such approaches, to produce heterogeneous architectures.26 While each approach offers novel ideas to overcome the "dark silicon" phenomenon, beyond-CMOS devices are the fundamental but most unpredictable choice for overcoming the limitations of CMOS devices.27


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.
Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account