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Old 30 Dec 2005, 05:44 PM   #1
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Default Chip industry sets a plan for life after silicon

Nanotechnology is officially on the road map.

A handful of futuristic chipmaking technologies at the atomic scale have been added to an industry planning effort that charts the future of the semiconductor manufacturing industry every two years.

The transition to a post-silicon era is forecast in a report called the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, to be issued Saturday. The report, which is produced cooperatively by semiconductor industry associations from Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States, is used by the semiconductor industry as a planning tool to determine how best to spend research and development money for new technology.

The shift away from conventional silicon transistors has become an important part of the industry's thinking, though the use of nanotechnology is not expected to replace current chipmaking processes for another decade.

The urgency in moving to molecular electronics is propelled in part by a recognition that conventional technologies, despite significant advances, will not be able to sustain indefinitely the chip industry dictum, known as Moore's Law, that projects a doubling of computing power roughly every two years.

In recent years, the semiconductor industry has repeatedly found ways to make conventional transistors ever smaller, making it possible to place more transistors on a single chip for increased computing power and capacity. Currently the smallest of modern transistors are no more than a handful of molecules across; the industry view is that it can continue to shrink conventional transistors for only the next decade. But even those minuscule transistors are bigger than the new class of nanoelectronics, composed of components as small as individual molecules. Researchers are experimenting with a variety of new materials beyond silicon, including organic molecules and carbon nanotubes.

What has changed in the industry's road map is the growing confidence in new technologies that make electronic switches from single molecules or even single electrons. Credit and More Info: CNet News
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