Newswise — We owe today's smartphones and tablets to the steady miniaturization of transistors. This process hasn't always been easy; there have been a number of big changes, fixes, and kluges along the way. Now, to keep Moore’s Law going, chipmakers are considering another monumental change--replacing the silicon that carries current in the heart of the device with germanium and compound semiconductors known as III-Vs.

These materials could usher in a new generation of speedier, less power-hungry transistors, allowing for denser, faster, cooler-running chips. Despite concern about contamination of fab equipment and uncertainty over the fabrication method, industry experts believe that silicon's days are numbered. "The challenges will pale," says Chenming Hu, coinventor of the FinFET and TSMC Distinguished Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley.