Nanotechnology's Evolving Role in Semiconductors

Will incremental improvements in electronics from nanotech keep the skeptics at bay?

2 min read

A couple of years ago I commented on frustration brewing at the time that chipmakers weren’t coming up with nanotechnology breakthroughs that the politicos who had funded the NNI were expecting.

It was a head-scratching moment for me because I wasn’t quite sure what they were expecting. But at about the same time, the semiconductor industry association, SEMI, was really beefing up its interest in nanotech, providing market research, newsletters, websites and a host of other information products to inform its members about the emerging field.

Now from what I can tell all those resources for information have been boiled down and diluted into an “Emerging Markets” page for SEMI.

But I still have some of the reports they generated at the time (I apologize, but my recent navigating through their website didn’t turn these up again), and about three years ago SEMI was quite earnest in their assessments of nanotech’s impact on electronics expecting that by 2010 nanoelectronics would constitute a US$520 billion market representing what it estimated as 48% of the overall electronics market.

According to SEMI, the big contributor to this market is what they termed “designer molecules”. These were essentially polymeric materials engineered at the molecular level to obtain specific properties. Examples of these molecules include dendrimers and macromolecules.

Applications for these molecules in semiconductors include photoresists, mould compounds, packaging adhesives and low-κ dielectrics. They also will find use in displays for improved transmission films and electronic ink. These molecules will also become critical to enabling self-assembly processes.

I just read a recent assessment of nanotech in semiconductors by the Editor-in-Chief of Solid-State Technology, Pete Singer, that shows how the market is developing today and more or less confirms some of the findings by SEMI a few years back. The article details how packaging applications are benefiting from nanomaterials, especially with some lead-free nanocomposite solders.

Incremental improvements, granted, but significant nonetheless. The issue is will these kinds of developments impress Mr. John Q. Congressman?

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