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Nanomaterials and the iNEMI Electronics Roadmap

Written by: 
Alan Rae, Ph.D., M.B.A.

Alan Rae, Ph.D., M.B.A.

Those of you familiar with electronics will know that three of the most read roadmaps are the ITRS (International Roadmap for Semiconductors) roadmap, from the perspective of the semiconductor industry; the iNEMI (International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative) roadmap, bringing together the value chain from OEMs to material and equipment suppliers; and the IPC (Association Connecting Electronic Industries) roadmap, focused on package and board assembly and fabrication. iNEMI publishes their Research Priorities every other year after the roadmap has been analyzed and the iNEMI 2013 Research Priorities are accessible at These Priorities represent the longer-term research needs identified by the 650 participants, 375 organizations and 18 countries represented. How do nanomaterials and nanostructures figure in the current Research Priorities?

In 2008 – five years ago – the number of internet-connected devices exceeded the number of people on earth. The “internet of things” and cloud computing are dramatically altering the landscape of electronics from communications to transportation to medicine. The “better-smaller-faster-cheaper” and thinner handheld devices we need require new materials sets and designs.

In semiconductors, we already see commercial devices moving towards the 20nm level. Where the semiconductor industry goes as we reach the cost and performance limits is really not clear – carbon nanotubes have found their niche in non-volatile memory but high volume semiconductor applications for nanotubes or graphene analogs are still several years away.

Packaging is getting very interesting with stacked die and the new technologies needed to enable their use – through silicon via, silicon and glass interposers, all requiring new materials sets. Nano silver die attach is now becoming mainstream (, and other interconnect opportunities through the use of copper ( and reduced copper oxide ( ).

This takes us towards the printed / large area flexible electronics business area where there is a significant need for new materials coupled with standards and sustainable design as many of these devices for medical and other sensor applications may be disposable.

Heat transfer is a promising area for application of highly conductive materials such as carbon nanotubes and graphene both as solids and in fluids. Heat transfer is a particular concern in LED lighting where nanomaterials as quantum dots may also be used as phosphors to convert ultraviolet light efficiently to visible light with attractive spectral performance.

Batteries and supercapacitors are another potential use for nanomaterials such as graphene-coated silicon ( Handheld devices, renewable energy load leveling and hybrid / electric automobiles all will require higher performance and lower cost batteries. It is fascinating to dismantle a smart phone or tablet and see how much of the internal volume – well over 50% in many cases is taken up by batteries.

Finally, let’s not forget that nature got there first to nanomaterials. The Defense Logistics Agency has mandated that DNA be used to establish traceability of electronic components; ( ); although the implementation has been somewhat controversial, the DNA taggant is easy to read and virtually impossible to replicate. Counterfeiting of electronic components and even boards is a pervasive problem not just for the military but also for automotive and medical industries. iNEMI and HDPUG (High Density Packaging Users’ Group) in the electronics area, have active programs in this area looking to identify the best possible procedures, and SAE International is doing some excellent standards work. They are trying to head-off life critical counterfeits in areas as serious as airbags.

So, the electronics roadmaps show an increasing need for the performance improvements that nanomaterials and nanostructures can deliver. Now it’s up to us to take the great work being done in universities and other laboratories and translate them into the products that roadmaps predict we are going to need.