. "Session III: Cooperative Research and Global Competition in Semiconductors." Innovative Flanders: Innovation Policies for the 21st Century: Report of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008.
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Innovative Flanders: Innovation Policies for the 21st Century - Report of a Symposium
New Product Trends
New products would continue to be cheaper and more powerful, continuing a long trend. Comparing the personal computer of last year with a PC in 1995, he cited a storage capacity 100 times higher and an overall price decline of 98 percent. “The overall functionality/cost equation makes it incredibly cheap to buy a PC now,” he said, “and I don’t see any reason why that won’t continue.”
Semiconductor technology had entered the nanometer range already, bringing a “whole host of challenges.” In about a decade, he said, the continual shrinking of semiconductors would bring the industry up against physical barriers—power dissipation limits, technological limits, and economic limits—that “may slow us down a little bit.” He cited heat dissipation as a particular problem. But he predicted that the industry was on the right track with both design solutions and process technologies to continues its progress.
What Lies Beyond CMOS?
Another particular challenge is to find the next generation switch beyond CMOS,12 which he said would probably be required in 10 or 15 years. None of a half-dozen current alternatives to the CMOS logic switch are close to being useful alternatives.
With regard to end uses for semiconductors, said Mr. Scalise, product rotations were being driven by the consumer now, and product cycles were quickening in response to consumer demand. Cell phone cycles, for example, had dropped in the last few years from 28 to 16 months. Prices had come down, functions had risen, and that trend would continue. To stay in business, companies had to be closely tuned in to what consumers want, and to be in the best position to meet that demand at the right time.
As the size of transistors continued to shrink, he said, the industry will have “multi-dimensional innovation requirements.” Today, they are still using equivalent scaling to follow the pace of Moore’s Law. That is, there continue to be new materials and device structures, but still within the existing CMOS scaling environment. Something fundamentally new will be required as the transistor passes below 32nm13 and power dissipation issues become acute. Many experts, he said, think that at least part of the problem can be overcome with atomic layer deposition techniques.
CMOS, or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor, is the dominant technology mode for digital integrated circuits. The CMOS transistor was invented in 1963.
The nanometer term describes the size of the smallest feature that can be manufactured on a single chip. There are about three to six atoms in a nanometer, depending on the type of atom. Reducing the size of the features enables smaller, more energy efficient and powerful chips.