Moore’s Law Meets Its Match

By 2010, the “More Than Moore’s Law” movement—which focuses on system integration rather than transistor density—will lead to revolutionary megafunction electronics

13 min read
Illustration: Bryan Christie Design
Illustration: Bryan Christie Design

img Illustration: Bryan Christie Design

Remember when combining a camera with a cellphone seemed daring? Or adding a cellphone to a PDA? Such technical tricks relied on Moore’s Law, which holds that the number of transistors on an IC doubles every 18 months. In the computing world, having more transistors on a chip means more speed and possibly more functions.But in many cases, those Moore’s Law ICs deal with only 10 percent of the system. The other 90 percent is still there, showing up as an array of bulky discrete passive components—such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, antennas, filters, and switches—interconnected over a printed-circuit board or two. Real miniaturization requires something more, and we have it in the system-on-package (SOP) approach we’re pursuing at the Microsystems Packaging Research Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta. SOP leapfrogs well beyond Moore’s Law. It combines ICs with micrometer-scale thin-film versions of discrete components, and it embeds everything in a new type of package so small that eventually handhelds will become anythingfrom multi- to megafunction devices. SOP products will be developed not just for wireless communications, computing, and entertainment. Outfitted with sensors, SOPs could be used to detect all manner of substances, toxic and benign, including chemicals in the environment, in food, and in the human body.

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