Metrics for Nanotechnology's Development Are Just Pieces of the Puzzle

The Chinese Academy of Sciences' casting doubt on the value of Chinese research papers throws into question that metric for nanotechnology's development

2 min read
Metrics for Nanotechnology's Development Are Just Pieces of the Puzzle

I am the type who can easily fall prey to “told-you-so” syndrome. Today is just such an instance.

Last month, I covered research that seemed to indicate that because China was producing so many research papers, they had a kind of lead in nanotech research.

At the time, I cautioned that just because Chinese researchers were publishing lots of research did not necessarily mean much if the research was not being cited by other researchers. I said, “I think it is altogether possible that papers published in journals outside of the top publications might rack up a lot query hits but mean little in terms of actual scientific impact.”

Bingo. I expected sooner or later some kind of evidence or other form of research would validate my point, but I didn’t expect it to come from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

According to the CAS article, a “publication bubble” in China is threatening to derail the country’s scientific advances. China has experienced a 14 percent increase in scientific publications from 2005 to 2009. Impressive, but as the article points out:

“But these impressive numbers mask an uncomfortable fact: most of these papers are of low quality or have little impact. Citation per article (CPA) measures the quality and impact of papers. China's CPA is 1.47, the lowest figure among the top 20 publishing countries, according to Elsevier's Scopus citation database.”

To me it’s all a bit of unnecessary worry either way. Whatever metric you want to choose—number of patents, research papers, government investment, etc.—it’s only going to give you part of the picture, a piece of the puzzle, if you will.

It really comes down to how you can put the puzzle together for anyone to make sense of it all. Ultimately, it is a qualitative question, not a quantitative one, as I’ve said before. But people's instinct is to trust a number rather than an expert opinion, often for good reason. Until that changes, we'll continue to see a steady stream of numbers for quantifying the development of nanotech.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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