The SIA Takes a Stand on Nanotechnology


Have you read the latest news from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA)? It makes a broad statement that the U.S. could lose the race for nanotechnology leadership, and then extends this reasoning by saying that the standard of living and national security is linked to leadership in this field.

Here’s how the reasoning begins. At a news conference in Washington, executives in U.S. semiconductor companies and an economist stressed the importance of continued progress in the industry. There might have been just a little self-serving going on, but since packaging is an extension of that area, we tend to listen to this outcry.

These leaders observed that the semiconductor industry has followed Moore’s Law, doubling the number of components on a computer chip yearly with a commensurate reduction in cost. The semiconductor industry has let in this vision with innovations that have helped drive U.S. economic growth. By 2020, however, many experts believe that there will be technological and economic limits to the Law’s applicability.

Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel Corp, says that current CMOS scaling to support Moore’s Law can only remain in effect for another 10 to 15 years, after which current chipmaking technology will reach its ultimate limits. To keep Moore’s Law alive, the industry will have to leave Newtonian physics and transition to quantum physics - an era of nanotechnology. But can we make the stretch?

“U.S. leadership in the nanoelectronics era is not guaranteed,” says Barrett. “It will take a massive, coordinated U.S. research effort involving academia, industry, and state and federal governments to ensure that America continues to be the world leader in information technology.”

In a worldwide field, such as packaging, a “we” vs. “them” approach is not always helpful. However, efforts to stir a complacent nation to action, such as our race to space, may require a bolt of lightning. Who can argue with more federal funding for R&D as a greater percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product? Who can argue with increased budget for physical sciences in the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and other supports of this type?

Yet many forget that the seeds for math and science must be planted early. Perhaps funding for No Child Left Behind, Head Start, or in some states just plain old kindergarten classes is where it all begins. It’s time to encourage girls to compete in math and science throughout their educational process so that we glean knowledge from all of our brilliant children.

The U.S. semiconductor industry employs more than 255,000 people. Now that’s significant. We need to invest in the future of this important field.

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Gail Flower