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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies 3 Major Areas of Opportunity INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Introduction The dramatic improvements in information technology over the last 50 years have led to a revolutionary change in the conduct of warfare. Information superiority is identified by the Air Force as a Core Competency, critical to modern warfare. The Critical Future Capability statement demands that “continuous, tailored information be provided within minutes of tasking with sufficient accuracy to engage any target in any battle space worldwide.”1 Information superiority is a critical component of other Core Competencies, including Aerospace Superiority, Global Attack, and Precision Engagement. Each of these is critically dependent on accurate and timely information. Several pieces must come together to satisfy the Air Force’s requirements. Sensors, discussed in the next section, provide the raw data. Electronic signal processing is applied to the sensor outputs to interface with the larger-scale information processing and communication systems. Communication at many levels is necessary to gather the information. Information processing, including fusion of data from multiple sensors, distills the sensor data into the information necessary for decision making. At each step there are requirements for data storage and display as well as for computation. Ultimately this must be a robust, redundant system tolerant of the failure of individual segments and self-reconfigurable to adjust to changing conditions and demands. Research and development (R&D) investments by the Air Force in these areas must be considered in context with other worldwide efforts, especially
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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies those of industry. Because the DoD is today a relatively small customer for information technology, industrial R&D programs are considerably larger than those affordable by the Air Force. Clearly, the commercial sector provides immense incentive for going after scientific and technological advances in this field. However, some technologies that are unique to the military or that are not yet commercially viable require military investment: . . . For example, many sensor applications are unique to government requirements and hence are funded solely by the government. Similarly, there are additional technologies that are essential for government missions but which may have or develop commercial application as well; however, the cost of their development is usually so high that industry cannot make a business case for maturing them commercially. Examples include the Global Positioning System, or development of new propulsion concepts.2 Assessing the appropriate R&D investment by the Air Force in light of the ongoing revolution in information technology in the commercial sector is challenging. In this section the committee examines some of the specific sectors of information technology (IT) to draw distinctions for the Air Force. This section starts with computing devices. Transistors, switches, and integrated circuits are covered; a separate section on space electronics is included because of the unique environmental requirements of space and its importance to the Air Force. Also covered are storage and display technologies. Computing architectures explores alternative paradigms for computing. Under communications, a number of areas are explored: optical materials and devices, radio frequency (RF) materials and devices; and RF and optical MEMS. Finally, information and signal processing and data fusion requirements are discussed. Computing Capabilities—Devices Scaled Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductors Advances in information technology are a result of the ever-shrinking transistor, applied to almost every aspect of gathering and treating information. Continuing increases in information technology capabilities are dependent on continuing advances in the fabrication of ever more powerful computational hardware. Moore’s law, the exponential increase in integrated circuit functionality, continues today. Although there are potential limitations on the horizon, the semiconductor industry roadmap, ITRS,3 which is based on the scaling from larger devices that has served us so well for the last 40 years, foresees a continuation of the current rate of Moore’s law to the present roadmap horizon of 2016, corresponding to a 32-fold improvement in device density. Barriers to reaching and surpassing this density include the following, among others: lithography, gate oxide current leakage, interconnect requirements, and thermal issues. These challenges have spurred many research efforts, both to address the
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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies issues within the context of traditional scaled-silicon systems and to find alternatives that circumvent the approaching barriers. Of great interest has been the field of nanotechnology, where multiple materials are innovatively positioned with nanometer precision. The ITRS, discussed in Chapter 2, is industry’s best analysis of all factors (fabrication, interconnects, thermal management, cross talk, cost, packaging, etc.) that must be considered in order to continue the miniaturization progress. The ITRS identifies a number of “brick walls”—major technology issues for which there is no known solution—as well other important technological challenges for which promising approaches have been identified. Given the current state of knowledge of CMOS and of the alternatives as they are now understood, the best guess for the next 10-15 years is that silicon CMOS technology will continue to provide the fastest switching time at the lowest cost in the smallest gate with the most cost-effective system integration. The continuing hegemony of CMOS devices and circuits is based on substantial improvements and the introduction of highly innovative ideas. At the 2001 International Electron Devices Meeting, Intel announced a transistor operating at 3.3 terahertz.4 At this same meeting, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) announced that variations on CMOS transistors operate with 15-nm feature sizes. A November 26, 2001, announcement by Intel disclosed a “depleted substrate transistor” having a leakage current 100 times smaller than present transistors and, therefore, a 104 smaller gate leakage power.5 This innovation could contribute substantially to the alleviation of heat dissipation that currently looms as a major issue. Other conventional approaches promote the use of asynchronous design or self-timed circuits operating without a single, chipwide clock speed orchestrating the tempo of each transistor.6 CMOS and its many variations represent opportunities for vast improvements as nanoscale dimensions are reached. Nonetheless, there are ultimate barriers to continued CMOS scaling, and new approaches for new devices and functions are being explored. Quantum interference effects, for example, may provide opportunities for new devices and functions. Some of the new approaches are based on alternative designs for transistors, while others represent entirely new ideas for logic operations. It is clear that the current architecture for digital computers is not unique, nor does it provide the greatest capability for some operations. The brain is able to process information for operations such as image recognition with far greater speed and efficacy than current computational approaches. Just how alternative architectures may operate, and which ones are likely to provide substantial improvement for certain operations, remains a frontier of current research. There have been many attempts to think outside the box. Radically different approaches are being investigated that, in most cases, attack only one small element of what, ultimately, must be an integrated effort tying together many factors that must be satisfied simultaneously for such a system to be of practical use (in a manner similar to the ITRS). These new approaches, some of which
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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies stem from frontier scientific discoveries, illuminate aspects of the difficult terrain ahead. Reviews of many of these approaches and observations on their performance are available.7,8,9 Enthusiasm for fabricating logic circuits from molecules is currently high. Tour-de-force feats with carbon nanotubes (see next section) and molecular-layer transistors have succeeded in actually fabricating transistors and even simple logic circuits. The progress made in 2001 was recognized as the breakthrough of the year by the magazine Science.10 With such significant progress, it may appear that technological developments are imminent. However, there appears to be no single approach with a clear path to competitive products. Integration of these individual elements into a highly dense fabric with functionality approaching today’s integrated circuits remains a formidable challenge, particularly in the face of our relatively rudimentary fabrication capabilities at the nanoscale (see Chapter 4). A number of approaches are being pursued with the goal of revealing additional scientific information that might improve prospects. These limitations have been discussed in articles by Meindl11,12,13 and Thompson, Packan and Bohr.14 The challenge presented by the appropriate design of interconnects has also been investigated extensively.15,16,17,18 In this context, it is important to acknowledge the extreme sophistication of the current integrated circuit paradigm and to recognize that the most likely early adoptions of these new technologies will be as adjuncts to, rather than replacements for, the manufacturing technology that currently dominates the marketplace. A recent paper attempts to introduce some logic to the plethora of current research directions.19 Of great importance is the observation that the transistor, the basis for such tremendous gains in information technology, has features that are critically important to its success: (1) it offers high gain, which allows a single transistor to reset logic levels after each stage and to drive multiple following transistors (fan-out) and (2) it isolates the output of the device from the input. These features allow the signal for a bit, with inevitably irregular amplitudes and features, to be combined with signals for other bits, yielding reliable logical functions and the accumulation of a result that maintains its integrity in a noisy environment. Other devices, such as resonant tunneling diodes (RTDs), can be used to generate gain; but because they are two terminal diode devices, they lack the isolation required for robust accumulation of logic operations. The advantages of RTDs with respect to switching speed have been known for years, but no uses for these devices have been found for logical operations in computers. The author of the above-mentioned paper, Keyes, concludes with the following paragraph: The fact that transistors have had no competitor in digital electronics for 40 years does not imply that no alternatives should be sought and studied. However, a search for a new concept must include an awareness of what digital means:
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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies a well-defined value for a digit and a way of maintaining and setting a signal to that value in a noisy environment, with mass-produced imprecise components. Alternatively it should be perfectly clear that digital representation is being abandoned if that is indeed the case, and that there is another way to cope with the inevitable uncertainty in the parameters of devices and the distortion of signals propagated in a large system. With this caveat in mind, the committee surveyed the various technologies that are currently under investigation as possible successors to the silicon CMOS mantle. Single-Electron Transistors The operation of a single-electron device, discussed in detail in a recent review,20 is based on the fact that the charging energy to add an additional electron to a small island, generally through a tunneling barrier, becomes significant if the island is of nanoscale dimensions. Initial research was performed at low temperatures, where thermal fluctuations remain negligible for nanostructures in a readily achievable size range. However, fabrication of structures in the 1-nm range will allow stable room temperature operation. Likharev points out two major unsolved challenges that face developers of single-electron transistor logic.21 First, there is the deleterious effect of random stray charges embedded in nearby insulators. These stray charges produce random, time-varying background charge levels, which impact device thresholds.22 Second, subnanometer structures will be needed at the heart of the single-electron device to allow room temperature operation. They will need to be very regular in size and shape to assure uniform device performance. If self-assembly fabrication methods (see Chapter 4) are used to generate perfectly regular nanostructures, they must necessarily be incorporated into a larger microstructure. The precise placement and interconnection of these subnanometer structures, including the placement of suitable tunneling barriers, present a formidable challenge to schemes for nanoassembly. Since these devices operate at the level of individual electrons, there is a fundamental issue with gain and fan-out (the ability to drive multiple following stages from a single device output) that poses a significant architectural problem for large systems. Spin-Based Electronics Following the development of the very successful giant magnetoresistive read heads for magnetic storage and magnetic field sensors, a new area of spin-based electronics is emerging.23 The concept is to use the spin of the electron in suitably designed devices to perform logic operations. One can imagine that information now stored as the presence or absence of charge could alternatively
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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies be stored as spin-up or spin-down. This might be particularly attractive if the spin information can be communicated from one point in the circuit to another without moving the corresponding charges, which would eliminate the accompanying dissipation mechanisms. This research is in its initial phases, asking basic questions about the distances over which spin can be transported without depolarization, the characteristics of sources and detectors of electron polarization, the effects of interfaces between ferromagnets and semiconductors, and the feasibility of ferromagnetic semiconductors in such applications. Domains in ferromagnets, which are formed by spins coupled together by the exchange interaction, are also being explored for use in computing. The propagation of the orientation direction of a magnetic domain through a series of nanoscale dots has been recently demonstrated.24 Further, using domain orientation to represent logic states, it has been possible to experimentally demonstrate the functionality of both a NOT gate and a shift register using continuous nanoscale magnetic “wires.”25 Molecular Electronics In its present incarnation, the term “molecular electronics” was coined shortly after the discovery of conducting organic polymers in the late 1970s in recognition of the significant electrical conduction properties of many organic materials. A second driving factor was the clear recognition that the brain of a living species represented a logical device with the ability to recognize an image much more rapidly that digital computers. This was the proof of theorem for a “molecular computer,” and the vision grew. Today molecular electronics has come to mean the use of molecules in electronic devices. Initial visions of molecular electronics focused on how the arrangement of chemical bonds in these molecules might function as circuits and switches. A significant number of researchers are exploring this area, although even after two decades it has not been possible to experimentally verify many of the initial hypotheses. Some direct measurements of electrical conductivity across single molecules have verified the magnitude of the electrical conduction found in single-molecule layers and illuminated possible mechanisms for conductivity in bulk molecular materials. Many of the experimental observations involving molecular conductivity behavior are puzzling and have not been explained fully. As the behavior of molecular units becomes better understood, it must be emphasized that a wide range of issues faces their practical application. The many considerations and challenges in the ITRS indicate the complexity of designing, fabricating, testing, and packaging chips with 0.13-micrometer feature sizes today. All of these issues are likely to be considerably more complex as dimensions are further reduced. This suggests that the first uses of molecular electronics are likely to be as adjuncts to, rather than replacements for, the integrated circuit.
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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies As activity in molecular electronics expanded, it was recognized that molecular materials might provide significant advantages for many other electronics applications. Organic thin-film transistors (the bulk organic material) demonstrate significant gain with reasonable characteristics for some electronic devices.26,27 The mobility of charge carriers in these materials is about three orders of magnitude lower than for commonly used semiconductors. This is fundamentally due to the hopping mechanism for conduction in disordered materials (as compared with band conduction in crystalline materials, which relegates such devices to speeds much slower than those currently achieved with today’s CMOS devices). But organic transistors fabricated by a variety of methods offer advantages such as low temperature, low-cost formation of large-area arrays, with particular potential for applications involving flexible structures (e.g., products such as credit cards and displays).28 Ink jet printers have been used to achieve transistor gate lengths of 5 micrometers and also to fabricate arrays of organic light-emitting diodes.29 Ink jet techniques have been also extended to such unconventional areas as deposition of suspended alloys and metallic or magnetic nanoparticles offering advantages for electronic applications.30 Organic transistors are envisioned for use as switching devices for active matrix flat panel displays (liquid crystal, organic light-emitting diodes, and “electronic paper”).31 In addition, organic and semiconductor white-light-emitting structures are anticipated to come into use in the future and to have a significant impact on energy use. All-polymer integrated circuits for use as radio frequency identification tags and for various sensors have been proposed. A variety of materials and methods are under examination with the purpose of developing low-cost, continuous-feed or reel-to-reel production methods for these low-end applications. Carbon Nanotube Electronics Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are a unique material (see Box 3-1) with remarkable electronic, mechanical, and chemical properties. CNT electrical behavior is different from that of ordinary conductors. Depending on the application, the difference in behavior might be an advantage, a disadvantage, or an opportunity. Electrical conduction within a perfect nanotube is ballistic, with low thermal dissipation, an advantage for computer chips if the tubes can be seamlessly interconnected. Perturbations such as electrical connections modify this behavior substantially. For slower signal speed for analog processing, nanotubes surrounding buckyball molecules acting as transmitters have been experimentally demonstrated. Individual multiwalled CNTs at room temperature exhibit quantized conductance at values of G = 2e2/h (= 12.9 kΩ–1), a remarkable observation. The current density for these experiments was 107 A/cm2, a value two orders of magnitude greater than current densities normally available for superconductors. Field-effect molecular transistors32 have been demonstrated using a back gate with a carbon nanotube33 settled across two gold conductors. The challenge
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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies BOX 3.1 The Ubiquitous Carbon Nanotube Discovered in 1991, tubular structures of carbon had been predicted since the discovery of soccer-ball-shaped 60-carbon molecules (buckminsterfullerenes, or “buckyballs”) in 1985 at Rice University. Each carbon atom in a nanotube is positioned in a lattice that wraps into a hollow pipe ranging from a few to tens of nanometers in diameter. Figure 3-1-1 shows various carbon nanotube structures, including multiwalled and metal-atom-filled nanotubes. Because of their unique self-assembled and atomically perfect structures, carbon nanotubes exhibit unusual electrical, mechanical, and chemical properties. These special properties, such as the ability to carry exceptionally high current densities in long molecularly perfect “wires” and unusually high mechanical strength at the limit of small ‘fiber’ diameters, have generated much interest in the potential applications of nanotubes. Displays Depending on their diameter and chirality, nanotubes exhibit either metallic (like copper) or semiconducting behavior. Metallic nanotubes can emit electrons from their extremely fine tips at quite low-voltages. The possibility of fabricating FIGURE 3-1-1 Carbon nanotube structures.
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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies nanotube arrays on surfaces for efficient current emitting elements is of great interest for low-power field emission displays, and a number of companies are racing to develop flat panel displays for next generation television and computer screens. Computing Further down the road, computer memory and logic concepts based on carbon nanotubes are being explored. Transistors made from carbon nanotubes a few nanometers in diameter—a hundred times smaller than the 130-nanometer transistor gates now found on computer chips—have been demonstrated.1 Also demonstrated are collections of nanotube transistors working together as simple logic gates, the fundamental computer component that transforms electrical signals into meaningful ones and zeros. If nanotubes or related nanowires could be used as tiny electronic switches or transistors, computer designers could, in principle, cram billions of devices onto a chip (the Pentium 4 has only 55 million transistors).2 The real challenge in this or any other alternative nanotechnology approach to fabricating computer chips is to design and connect up many millions or billions of such components in a highly manufacturable and reliable architecture. Mechanical Properties As a result of their seamless cylindrical structure, carbon nanotubes have low density, high stiffness, and high axial strength. Theoretical studies and recent experimental measurements suggest that the Young’s modulus and breaking strength of single-wall carbon nanotubes are exceptionally high.3 Carbon fibers with a tensile strength up to 6 GPa are commercially available, while initial experimental measurements on 4-mm-long single-wall carbon nanotube (SWNT) “ropes” consisting of tens to hundreds of individual SWNTs have yielded values up to 45 GPa.4 The hope is that millimeter-long SWNTs can be formed into longer fibers or dispersed into a composite matrix while still maintaining a significant fraction of this observed improvement over conventional carbon fibers. The major challenge is retaining the strength of nanofibers and assemblies of nanofibers in conjunction with a matrix material so these properties can be controlled, optimized, and made practical. Energy Storage Carbon nanotubes could be used to improve batteries. They can in principle store twice as much energy density as graphite, the form of carbon currently used as an electrode in many rechargeable lithium batteries. Conventional graphite electrodes can reversibly store one lithium ion for every six carbon atoms. Tiny straws of carbon tubes reversibly store one charged ion for every three carbon atoms, double the capacity of graphite.5 Carbon nanotubes are also being investigated for hydrogen storage. They may be capable of storing amounts comparable to or exceeding the U.S. Department of Energy target of 6.5 percent of their own weight in hydrogen, a level considered necessary to be practical for fuel cell electric vehicles.6 The carbon nanotube is a now-classic example of a well-defined nanostructure, and exploring ways to exploit its unique properties for possible nanotechnology-based applications remains a subject of intense interest. A general issue is the ability to reproducibly obtain large quantities of selective configurations of single-or multiple-wall nanotubes. Methods for synthesizing nanotubes, controlling orien-
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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies tation, and producing macroscopic quantities of these nanostructures are advancing but still are at an early stage of development. Integrating these materials into, for example, a composite matrix or an interconnected electrical structure, where their nanoscale properties translate into macroscale effects, remains a key challenge. 1 See references in Service, R.F. 2001. Molecules get wired. Science 294(5551): 2442–2443 for a review of the current status of carbon nanotube electronic devices and circuits. 2 Wasson, S., and A. Brown. 2002. Pentium 4 “Northwood” 2.2 GHz vs. Athlon XP2000+ Battle of the big dawgs, January 7. Available online at <http://www.tech-report.com/reviews/2002q1/northwood-vs-2000/index.x?pg=1>[April 24, 2002]. 3 Yu, M-F, B.S. Files, S. Arepalli, and R.S. Ruoff. 2000. Tensile loading of ropes of single wall carbon nanotubes and their mechanical properties. Physical Review Letters 84(24): 5552– 5555. 4 See references in Service, R.F. 2001. Molecules get wired. Science 294(5551): 2442–2443 for a review of the current status of carbon nanotube electronic devices and circuits. 5 Scientific American. 2002. Carbon nanotubes could lengthen battery life. Scientific American News in Brief, January 9. Available online at <http://www.sciam.com/news/010902/2.html> [April 24, 2002]. 6 Dagani, R. 2002. Tempest in a tiny tube. Chemical and Engineering News 80(2): 25–28. of demonstrating logic circuits was met recently with electrostatically doped CNTs. Doping of CNTs may be accomplished chemically;34 CMOS-type inverters have been demonstrated with both p- and n-type doping. This work experimentally demonstrated the performance of an inverter and a NOR circuit using transistor-resistor logic with an on-off ratio of 105 and high gain.35 It is clear that by arranging these CNT transistors appropriately, the functions AND, OR, NAND, and XOR can be realized. While these results represent a tremendous achievement, many questions remain. Even if all goes well, most experts predict it will be at least a decade before nanotubes become a significant part of computers. Challenging the supremacy of silicon is an enormous technical and financial task that will take far more than some promising scientific advances. It will take equally impressive advances in manufacturing and computer design. “Nanotubes can be used as transistors, logic and memory; all that has been demonstrated now,” says Hongjie Dai, a chemist and nanotube researcher at Stanford University. “The question now is, how practical can these [nanotube] devices be?”36 Quantum Interference Devices The term “quantum devices” refers to devices dominated by nonclassical effects arising from the discrete nature of matter at atomic dimensions and the resulting wave interference effects. The RTD is a device exhibiting negative differential resistance (NDR) owing to interference effects (or, equivalently, owing to resonant energy transfer across quantum levels). It is already well accepted as a device capable of enhancing the speed of field-effect transistor logic devices by factors of 2 to 5, allowing a significant increase in processing speed for digital signal processors (DSPs).37
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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies Conductance through a medium having lateral dimensions smaller than an electron wavelength is quantized in units of 2e2/h, where e is the charge on the electron and h is Planck’s constant,38 as a consequence of the discrete energy levels along with the Fermi velocity and electron density of states at the Fermi level. Geometric imperfections and impurities in the conduction medium give rise to many kinds of variations in the conduction behavior of nanostructures. Interference effects have been the subject of extensive research (see, for example, Agranovich).39 The Aharonov-Bohm effect occurs when charge carriers are passed through a ring, where two separate paths of almost equal length are possible for these carriers. As they meet at the other side of the ring, if the distance traversed is less than the coherence length, interference effects appear as a function of magnetic field. This magnetoresistive behavior is fairly straightforward for regular geometric features. In more irregular shapes, however, the prediction becomes increasingly difficult owing to the complexity of the wave equation solutions in the presence of more complex boundary conditions. Magnetoresistive measurements of most objects with dimensions smaller than a coherence length demonstrate these “conductance fluctuations,” which have been examined extensively. This serves to alert investigators to the sensitivity such nanostructured devices are likely to have to the presence of geometric irregularities. These wave effects form the basis of quantum computing approaches (see section on computing architectures) that might vastly increase the ability to solve certain important classes of problems, such as prime number factorization. Solid Electrochemical Switching A new method of switching using a nanoscale device was recently described.40 A tip made of a solid electrolyte, silver sulfide, is positioned a few nanometers above a flat platinum surface. When a bias voltage as low as 10 mV is applied across the gap, atoms come out of solution and extend the tip toward the surface, eventually making contact. Quantized conductance is observed with conductance values of n(2e2/h), where n = 0 through 5, depending on the voltage applied. It is expected that this reversible process can be controlled with switching rates of 100 megahertz and on-off impedance ratios of 1:1,000 in air at room temperature. Simple logic gates have been constructed, which may have applications in information storage. Vacuum Microelectronics: Back to the Future Before transistors, vacuum tubes provided gain for electronic circuits. Today, vacuum tubes are still used as high-power radio frequency generators and amplifiers and as display devices (most televisions and computer monitors are still based on cathode ray tubes). Vacuum tubes utilize the free-space transmission of electrons from cathode to anode and are inherently radiation-hard and
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Representative terms from entire chapter: