Nanotech conference plots future of electronics
Presenters at the First International Nanotechnology Conference on Communication and Cooperation identified key issues facing nanotechnology.
"The engineers of future nanoscale devices will have to acquire many different skills that they do not have today, just as they had to do when we made the transition from discrete components to integrated circuits in the past," said Intel Corp. research fellow Paola Gargini.
The San Francisco conference, which hosted more than 36 presenters from nearly a dozen countries, kicked off with overviews of the state of nanotechnology in the United States, Europe and Japan. A dozen presentations zeroed in on the key issues and challenges facing future EEs designing nanoscale devices.
Franz Kreupl, nanoelectronics project manager with Infineon Technologies AG's corporate research labs, described the key problems that remain to be solved in manufacturing chips using carbon nanotubes.
Nanotubes have "huge electron mobility, mechanical strength and chemical inertness," he said. "Their phase space, because of their nearly one-dimensional aspect ratio, enables almost ballistic electron transport, reduced scattering and an almost complete absence of dangling bonds, making the use of high-k dielectrics simple and easy."
Kreupl speculated that the remaining problems facing the integration of nanoscale devices with traditional silicon processing techniques will require a multidisciplinary approach that combines traditional EE skills with those from materials scientists, chemistry and biology.
University of Tokyo professor Toshiro Hiramoto claimed that combining nanoscale processing steps with traditional silicon devices would yield a new regime of nanodevices that would "enhance mobility with ultrathin transistor channels and enable sub-band engineering with multibit operation in silicon nanocrystal memories and single-electron transistors."
Other researchers concentrated on nanowires, organic large-area solar cells, molecular electronics, spintronics, bioanalytic systems and nanotechnology in medicine.
On the last day of the conference, speakers looked at the biological and societal implications of nanotechnology, including the use of organic materials in the fabrication of everything from large-area electronics to artificial organs. Also discussed were the ethical issues facing the safe deployment of processing methodologies and end-user applications in nanotechnology that hold the potential to shift the worldwide economic balance.
Presenters speculated that chemistry, especially nanoscale catalysts, would be the first technological area to be revolutionized by nanotechnology, followed by semiconductors that use nanotechnology to indefinitely extend Moore's Law, with a sprinkling of medical breakthroughs along the way.
"Nanotechnology in medicine could profoundly improve the quality of life worldwide, with one of the first breakthroughs likely to be the creation of artificial organs," said Mihail Roco, a key architect of the National Nanotechnology Initiative and chairman of the U.S. National Science and Technology Council's subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology. Roco is also a senior adviser in nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation.
The conference was co-organized by Intel, a leading nanotechnology research supporter. Co-sponsors from the United States, Europe and Japan included the National Science Foundation, Sematech, Lux Research, Philips Research Laboratories, Hitachi and the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
Representatives from governmental and industrial organizations in Spain, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and the United States were among those who provided updates on nanotechnology developments.
- R. Colin Johnson
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