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Chips and Components

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Instant-Charge Batteries
Ultracapacitor batteries are lighter than existing chemical batteries, and are already being used in hybrid vehicles. A few years down the line, the market could see lightweight ultracapacitor batteries in laptops, cell phones, and other portable devices.

High-Capacity Nanotube Batteries
Carbon nanotube batteries could have ten times the capacity of existing lithium ion ones. We're looking forward to camera batteries that last for an entire trip, and cell phones with battery life spans of weeks instead of days.

Fuel-Cell Batteries
Working prototypes of fuel cell batteries (which generate clean electricity, producing only water and carbon dioxide as by-products) for portable devices should be around by the end of 2007, and research company Frost & Sullivan thinks that 80 million fuel cells will be sold in 2012.

More-Efficient Graphics Cards
Graphics processing units (GPUs) aren't going to go multicore in the same way as CPUs have--considering the way they work, it doesn't make sense. Instead, GPU manufacturers will focus on creating more pipelines within the chips and on designing more efficient ways to crunch the heavy-duty math that 3D graphics require.

More Systems With Multiple Graphics Processors
We will, however, see more setups employing multiple graphics cards. You can already buy laptops that use two GPUs for gaming, and high-end gaming desktops with four GPUs. Adding even more GPUs wouldn't offer much advantage, but cards such as the nVidia 7950 GX2 (which combines two GPUs onto one board) make multiple-graphics-processor arrangements possible for cheaper systems.

External Graphics Cards
The inside of your PC is becoming increasingly hot and crowded. Moving some components (such as the graphics card) to an external case, where they can be more easily cooled and powered, might make sense. nVidia already offers an external graphics card system for professionals (the Quadro Plex), and such technology could trickle down to high-end home users.

The General-Purpose GPU
The graphics processing units on graphics cards are designed to run 3D games, but the power they provide can be turned to other purposes. Windows Vista will use the GPU to render its Aero Glass user interface, and many researchers are working on ways to harness the power of these speedy chips for such tasks as rendering video.

Nanotube Heat Sinks
Modern PC components produce a lot of heat, but carbon nanotube heat sinks will conduct that heat away better than existing metal ones do. See "The Future of Nanotech" for more details on how nanotechnology will revolutionize computing.

Quad-Core Processors
Dual-core processors have given PCs a big speed boost, but the advances won't stop there. Quad-core systems from Intel will arrive before the end of the year, and AMD's quad-core chips will hit the market in mid-2007.

The 8-Hour Laptop Battery
Both AMD and Intel are working toward a notebook that can last 8 hours on a single charge, enough for a full day's work. This development will be made possible through a combination of better batteries (see the first three predictions on this page) and more-efficient processors--future processors will sip power to stretch out the battery life.

Even More of Moore's Law
Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography will help shrink chip features even more than the 45-nanometer process that Intel will begin using in 2007. The 32-nanometer chips will allow for faster processing, and will permit chip manufacturers to wring a few more years out of everyone's favorite law of transistor density.

Special Report: Tomorrow's Technology

The Future of Your PC The Future of Robots
The Future of Cell Phones The Future of Privacy
The Future of the Web The Future of Nanotech
The Future of OSs The Future of You
The Future of Fun 100 Fearless Forecasts
Incredible Tech: Lies Ahead A Look Back
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