What is the â¿¿nanotechnologyâ¿¿ chip makers are supposed to be pursuing?

In catching up with my nanotechnology news, I saw this story posted at Investorâ''s Business Daily at the beginning of the month.

It all seemed pretty alarming: government funding for nanotech is going to stop if chipmakers donâ''t start coming up with some nanotechnology breakthroughs.

I kept on reading to find out what exactly they might be talking about when they said â''nanotech chip breakthroughâ'' or â''apply nanotech to chip designsâ''â'¿yeah, you guessed it, I was never enlightened.

I am fairly naïve, but I guess I figured that chip makers were always going to run the full lifecycle of their billion-dollar fabs before completely changing chip manufacturing and making their huge investments obsolete. On second thought, maybe Iâ''m not so naïve but some others are.

I am not an â''investorâ'' so I guess I am not as savvy as the typical IBD reader, but wouldnâ''t anyone looking at how nanotech was going to work itself into the chip industry have understood this fundamental idea?

I also have to admit that I was a little stunned to see that others didnâ''t think nanotech was already being applied to chip manufacturing. I mean current chips employ 90-nanometer circuits, and IBM last year demonstrated that they can make them with dimensions of 29.9 nanometers. Doesnâ''t that fall under the oft-quoted 100-nm threshold?

Plus earlier this year, IBM scientists were able to apply nanotech self-assembly to mainstream chip manufacturing.

If nanotechnology is not making a big enough impact on chip manufacturing to make sure the politicos keep the research dollars coming, then the fault may not be in nanotech research, but fundamental capitalismâ'¿no one is going to start making a new product that requires new factories until they have completely used their old factories. Seems plain to me.

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