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Political Posturing in Nanotech Settles along Party Lines

Funding for nanotechnology gets hung up on ideological debate

2 min read
Political Posturing in Nanotech Settles along Party Lines

I hope I have made my position on the so-called nanotech race clear over the years.  While I have been skeptical that a regional focus to nanotechnology’s development will somehow pay off in the end for those regions that invest in it, I had not yet seen the debate around nanotech’s development start splitting across the lines of the US government’s party ideologies. That is until now.

I came across this article in last week’s CBS MarketWatch website in which the debate is not just about how the US is in danger of losing its leadership in nanotech (I am not so certain this is likely to occur, even if you go by the numbers), but about whether actual funding or tax breaks are the factor that lead to that leadership in the first place.

According to the MarketWatch article, Sen. Kay Hutchinson, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, said the U.S. led in nanotech over the last decade thanks to research-and-development tax cuts.

Can R&D tax cuts really be the factor that put the US in its strong position in nanotechnology’s development? I am a bit bewildered. Until this article I had never heard anyone mention tax cuts in the same breath as nanotech development.

I suppose the more than $14.5 billion the Federal government has spent in actual funding over the last decade was just a minor factor in that leadership. Instead the key factor seems to be, according to Sen. Hutchinson, that those tax cuts be made permanent.

I am not a Beltway expert by any means, but what is going on here? My understanding was that there was a vote to be taken by the US Senate to reauthorize the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) that has managed to get its funding through annual appropriation bills since 2008.

Instead what we seem to be getting is some non-issue standing in the way of getting the reauthorization voted on. Was someone really threatening to take away R&D tax cuts so that they needed to be protected by some permanent law?

I have been observing the US’s nanotechnology initiative since it started and have witnessed a slew of other countries launch theirs since and I think all in all the US should feel satisfied not only with the results to date but they way the program has been managed as well.

It would be a pity if all the hard work...and hard cash...that have gone into creating a foundation for nanotechnology’s development in the US, and even for it becoming a leader in the field, would be squandered for some political ideology.

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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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