This week scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created two dimensional nano-electronic circuits just 1nm tall (see Nature Communications article). Apparently they were able to create one crystal
two crystals ontop of one another, then infused the top that layer with sulfur. With that as a base they used standard scalable photolitographic and electron beam lithographic processing techniques to pattern electronic junctions in the crystal layer and then used a pulsed laser evaporate to burn off selective sulfur atoms from a target (selective sulferization of the material), converting MoSe2 to MoS2. At the end of this process was a 2D electronic circuit just 3 atoms thick, with heterojunctions, molecularly similar to pristine MOS available today, but at much thinner (~1nm) and smaller scale (~5nm).
In other news this month, IBM also announced that they had produced working prototypes of a ~7nm transistor in a processor chip (see NY Times article). IBM sold off their chip foundry a while ago to Global Foundries, but continue working on semiconductor research with SEMATECH, an Albany NY semiconductor research consortium. Recently Samsung and Intel left SEMATECH, maybe a bit too early.
On the other hand, Intel announced they were having some problems getting to the next node in the semiconductor roadmap after their current 14nm transistor chips (see Fortune article). Intel stated that the last two generations took 2.5 years instead of 2 years, and that pace is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Intel seems to be spending more research and $’s creating low-power or new (GPUs) types of processing than in a mad rush to double transistors every 2 years.
So taking it all in, Moore’s law is still being fueled by Billion $ R&D budgets and the ever increasing demand for more transistors per area. It may take a little longer to double the transistors on a chip, but we can see at least another two generations down the ITRS semiconductor roadmap. That is, if the Oak Ridge research proves manufacturable as it seems to be.
So Moore’s law has at least another generation or two to run. Whether there’s a need for more processing power is anyone’s guess but the need for cheaper flash, non-volatile memory and DRAM is a certainty for as far as I can see.
- From “Patterned arrays of lateral heterojunctions within monolayer two-dimensional semiconductors”, by Masoud Mahjouri-Samani, Ming-Wei Lin, Kai Wang, Andrew R. Lupini, Jaekwang Lee, Leonardo Basile, Abdelaziz Boulesbaa, Christopher M. Rouleau, Alexander A. Puretzky, Ilia N. Ivanov, Kai Xiao, Mina Yoon & David B. Geohegan
- From “Comparison semiconductor process nodes” by Cmglee – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Comparison_semiconductor_process_nodes.svg#/media/File:Comparison_semiconductor_process_nodes.svg