Chipmakers look to nanoelectronics

Chipmakers look to nanoelectronics

Chip makers in the US want to establish a national institute for nanoelectronics research as they approach the physical limits of current semiconductor technology, expected in about 15 years.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) in San Jose, California, this week said its members were in talks with universities and the federal government about creating and funding a Nanoelectronics Research Institute.

The proposed institute, according to SIA, will be responsible for directing and coordinating a massive research effort to assure continued US competitiveness as manufacturers move to new production technologies.

Plans of launching a nanoelectronics research center in the US come just days after the German government confirmed negotiations with local industry about establishing a similar research center in Dresden.

For several decades, semiconductor manufacturers have been able to keep shrinking transistors and other electronic components to improve chips' processing and storage capabilities.

The ability to double chip performance every one to two years is often called Moore's Law, after Intel co-founder, Gordon Moore.

But to deliver continuous improvements in computers, mobile devices and consumer-electronic products, chipmakers realise they can't endlessly squeeze more into existing complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology, according to the SIA.

Instead, they would need to develop new chips with features that were measured in nanometres, it said.

One nanometer is one one-billionth of a metre.

SIA is proposing the new nanoelectronics initiative as a joint effort of chip makers, academia and government. Under the plan, researchers from universities and manufacturers would collaborate to identify and test new production materials and techniques, which would replace today's technologies.

Money is likely to be an issue. U.S. research and development efforts in semiconductor technology faced a shortfall this year of about $US1.5 billion to stay current with the CMOS technology plan outlined in the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, the SIA said.

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