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Nanotechnology Goes Underground

Faced with effective fear tactics, companies downplay their use of nanomaterials

2 min read

It seems that concern is brewing that manufacturers may not publicize the use of nanomaterials in their products.

In the often misinformed exuberance of NGOs to rid the earth of evil nanomaterials produced by heartless, monolithic industry, it only makes sense that companies would start downplaying their use of the novel materials. In fact, I rather unimaginatively suggested this would happen here and here.

I wish I could say that these posts were prescient. No, they were just common sense. If one day sulfuric acid was proclaimed as the next wonder material of the world, as a nylon producer you might want to hype how it's used to make your products. But if you begin to see a rather healthy industry developing around the demonization of sulfuric acid, you might want to just talk about how your nylon is perfectly safe and not mention so much the toxic materials used to make it.

But we do love of our conspiracy theories, especially those that involve corporations trying to stick it John Q. Public. I rather enjoyed the one related here in which in 2007 there were 29 mentions of nanotechnology on a cosmetics website, but today zero. Ah's a brilliantly conceived plot, no doubt.

In the same article in which we get the conspiracy we are actually given another point of view (an increasingly rare occurrence) that it's all just a problem of semantics. If a size definition of nanotechnology could just be agreed upon, all the controversy would be settled.

"Varying definitions leads to claims that the industry is not open with information. But nobody is lying and nobody is misleading the public or authorities. Let's agree on what we're talking about and work together to inform consumers," said Steffi Freidrichs, director of the Nanotechnology Industries Association.

Yeah, it's just a difference between 300nm and 100nm. Problem solved. That's it. Then again, I'm not so sure those that are convinced that big, bad industry are compelled to poison us for the sake of profit are going to be so easily swayed by that argument.



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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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