Opposite Sides of the Atlantic Deliver Alternative Views of Nanotech's Development

Maybe national nanotech strategies could do with a bit less contemplation and bit more pragmatism

2 min read
Opposite Sides of the Atlantic Deliver Alternative Views of Nanotech's Development

This week we get two very different perspectives on the state of nanotechnology and its development.

On the one hand, we have the somewhat jaundiced view from the United Kingdom–based New Scientist, which confesses to a fair amount of skepticism about the mere idea of nanotechnology but wonders why the UK has seemingly dropped off the nanotech map.

On the other hand, we have the United States–based Industry Week, which promises that whatever regulatory problems we see now are merely growing pains in the manifest destiny of nanotech’s ultimate success.

The somewhat more pessimistic Old World view comes from Roger Highfield, the New Scientist editor who penned the publication’s blog piece. He references the travails of UK-based quantum manufacturer Nanoco as evidence of the lack of emphasis on nanotech’s development in the UK.

Highfield also bases much of his perspective on a nearly abandoned piece of research sponsored by the RCUK Nanoscience Programme entitled “Setting the Foundations for New Industries and Opportunities,” which can be found here. Of course, abandoning previous research so you can do it all over again is a popular tradition that seems to plague European Union projects and especially those in the UK

The report, which was put together by an international panel of academics, seems to have ignored the rule for most of these government reports: They ultimately must serve as a pat on the back while urging people to do even more great work.

It does, however, nail one of the key problems with nanotech’s development in the UK (and, one could argue, in the EU as well):

“...the system is top-heavy, with a labyrinth of advisory, consultative, and coordinating committees. These impede decision taking, rather than facilitating it, and create confusion both within the research community and at higher policy levels.”

I am sure that this dependence on consultations and repetitive reports all started innocently enough, but now it seems to have become a systemic problem that will really need to be addressed for there to be forward progress—not only in the UK, but in just about any country that has announced a nanotechnology initiative.

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3 Ways 3D Chip Tech Is Upending Computing

AMD, Graphcore, and Intel show why the industry’s leading edge is going vertical

8 min read
A stack of 3 images.  One of a chip, another is a group of chips and a single grey chip.
Intel; Graphcore; AMD

A crop of high-performance processors is showing that the new direction for continuing Moore’s Law is all about up. Each generation of processor needs to perform better than the last, and, at its most basic, that means integrating more logic onto the silicon. But there are two problems: One is that our ability to shrink transistors and the logic and memory blocks they make up is slowing down. The other is that chips have reached their size limits. Photolithography tools can pattern only an area of about 850 square millimeters, which is about the size of a top-of-the-line Nvidia GPU.

For a few years now, developers of systems-on-chips have begun to break up their ever-larger designs into smaller chiplets and link them together inside the same package to effectively increase the silicon area, among other advantages. In CPUs, these links have mostly been so-called 2.5D, where the chiplets are set beside each other and connected using short, dense interconnects. Momentum for this type of integration will likely only grow now that most of the major manufacturers have agreed on a 2.5D chiplet-to-chiplet communications standard.

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