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Nanotechnology and Electronics – Becoming Pervasive

Written by: 
Alan Rae, Ph.D., M.B.A
Alan Rae, Ph.D., M.B.A
Alan Rae, Ph.D., M.B.A

About 8 years ago I gave a presentation to the SMTA Pan-Pacific meeting on nanotechnology and how it was going to influence electronics packaging and assembly. This year at the January meeting there was a full day’s session devoted to the topic, with speakers from Japan, Germany, Taiwan and the USA. Topics demonstrate the breadth of work being carried out: advance interconnects for cognitive computing (aka artificial intelligence), photoresists and mask materials for injection molded solder, hybrid bonding Cu-Cu adhesives, nano anchoring copper foil, Cu nanoparticles produced from CuO paste, nano silver die attach, graphene nanoribbons for THz communications, Cu-Cu bonding and nano solder property testing. Techniques for generating nanostructures included electroplating, in-situ reaction and lithography.

Electronics is being driven by the traditional handheld device drivers (better-smaller-faster-cheaper-thinner) but also by the transition of data from physical storage to the Cloud (actually that just means it’s stored on someone else’s hardware rather than yours!), the rapid evolution of smart vehicles leading to autonomous vehicles, the growing use of telemedicine and of course the Internet of Everything which creates new demands on the whole supply chain – sensors, data collection, data transmission, data storage, data analysis and action on that analysis. We will see new technical demands from sensors, communication devices and the learning systems needed to analyze the huge quantities of data coming first from commercial connected devices as diverse as the trucks, almond trees and coffeemakers discussed in a recent Lux Research webinar.

We still struggle in the materials space with the adoption time; product cycle for a smart phone is about a year, semiconductors 2 years (but now increasing), automobiles about 4 years and many materials systems 10 years or more. It isn’t getting any faster. One reason - reliability requirements are becoming much more stringent – solar generation systems are guaranteed for 25 years, automotive drivetrains and emission systems up to 10 years – and we expect military grade systems for consumer prices!

What we still don’t see yet in electronics is the evolution from subsystems to integrated systems except in semiconductor fabrication. Outside the wafer we still have individual niches starting to be occupied by coatings, fillers, passive device elements and interconnects.