Nanomanufacturing innovations have made numerous impacts in various industry roadmaps with semiconductor, data storage, and aerospace being prime examples. For many of these examples, the impact of nanotechnology provides a marginal extension of the industry roadmap, as in the case of directed self-assembly (DSA) for bit patterned media magnetic data storage, and extending the utility of specific lithographic tools. In the case of new nanotechnology-enabled composite materials, the aerospace industry has already reaped significant benefit, and advances in the value chain will impact everything from sporting equipment to automobiles, thereby providing the promise of significant economic and societal benefit that typically follows such discussions on nanotechnology.
Very recently, another game changing innovation has been reported with the potential to impact the heralded Moore’s Law, which many experts see hitting a brick wall in the next decade. In this example, researchers at IBM reported using a chemical self-assembly process to form arrays of individual semiconducting carbon nanotubes (CNTs) from which CNT transistors were fabricated. While we have heard a great deal regarding CNT transistors and nanoelectronics in the press and scientific literature, several key points about this recent announcement are extremely notable from a nanomanufacturing perspective. First, the reported density of individually positioned semiconducting CNTs is greater than two orders of magnitude higher than previously reported. Utilizing this chemical self-assembly method, CNT transistors were fabricated in an existing fabrication line, and >10,000 devices were tested on a single chip. Considering the CNT supply chain, semiconducting nanotubes were available at a purity level exceeding 99%, and from a yield standpoint, the electrical characteristics for devices fabricated on each chip was phenomenal.
This news is particularly exciting as it potentially extends aspects of Moore’s Law now by another decade, providing yet another data point to the term “nanotechnology-enabled”. Most notable is the leaps and bounds progress made in this technology area in which CNT based electronics may now provide a new and unique direction, and quite possibly a new segment for a large industry base which is struggling to see where the next innovation that defines it’s path may come from. More can be learned on this innovative technology below in this newsletter. More importantly, I look forward to reporting the next significant innovation in nanotechnology-enabled materials and processes.