5 Technologies To Watch

Biotech, power semis and selective deposition are among the key technologies for the future.

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The industry is developing a dizzying array of new technologies. In fact, there are more new and innovative technologies than ever before. And the list is countless.

At least from my vantage point, I have come up with my own list of the top five technologies to watch in 2015 and beyond. They are listed in alphabetical order. (See below).

Obviously, there are more than just five technologies to watch. So, I also included some other technologies to watch in what I call the “honorable mention” category.

Here’s my list of the top five technologies to watch:

DNA and gene analysis
The field of biotech is in its infancy. DNA sequencing, one emerging technology in this broad field, is a technique that determines the order of DNA bases. This, in turn, is important for the study of genetics, gene mutations and therapies.

In 2014, Illumina hit a milestone, when the biotech company claimed that it sequenced a human-sized genome at a cost of $1,000. This compares to the cost of about $10 million a decade ago.

DNA sequencing is still expensive for consumers. The goal is to bring the technology into the doctor’s office at an affordable rate. To reach that goal, Illumina and others are developing DNA sequencing technologies using semiconductor-based chips and fab techniques.

Besides DNA sequencing, the field of gene analysis is booming. In total, there are over 27,000 types of gene tests available for consumers for 5,700 conditions and 3,800 genes, according to the NIH Genetic Testing Registry. In just one example, 23andMe provides a test for individuals to learn about their DNA using a chip-based technology.

Extreme ultraviolet lithography
EUV was supposed to replace optical lithography at 65nm, but the technology has encountered several delays over the years. The big problem is the power source. The resists and mask infrastructure also remains immature.

More recently, though, EUV is making progress. The EUV source is generating 80 Watts of power, up from 10 Watts a year ago. Still, chipmakers want 250 Watts of power to bring EUV into mass production.

There is an urgent need for EUV at the 7nm node, as a means to simplify patterning and reduce litho costs. But if EUV misses the 7nm node, chipmakers will continue to extend Optical Lithography and multi-patterning. So a lot is riding on EUV. The other next-generation lithography solutions–DSA, imprint and multi-beam e-beam–are not ready.

Power semiconductors
Worldwide demand for electricity is expected to increase by 87% from 2010 to 2040, according to Exxon Mobil. But in the transmission and distribution of electricity, the losses can range from 8% to 15%, according to estimates.

So, there is a pressing need for faster and more efficient systems and chips. And over the years, the industry has developed more efficient power chips based on wide-bandgap technologies, namely silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) on silicon.

In addition, the industry is developing next-generation power transistors. The next-generation candidates include bulk vertical GaN, diamond FETs, newfangled SiC and others. If developed, these types of devices could offer a pathway to functional cost parity with silicon-based power devices, according to Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Selective deposition
Selective deposition is being used in today’s fab flow to a small degree. But chipmakers want more selective deposition capabilities and the sooner the better.

Combining novel chemistries with atomic layer deposition (ALD) tools, selective deposition involves a process of depositing materials and films in exact places. It can be used to deposit metals on metals and dielectrics on dielectrics on a device.

There are several applications for the technology. One is to solve the edge placement error (EPE) issues in patterning. In the lab, the Eindhoven University of Technology is working on direct-write ALD as a means to pattern future devices. This makes use of electron-beam induced deposition (EBID) or ion-beam induced deposition (IBID). Time will tell if selective deposition is the new patterning paradigm.

Quantum Dots
Quantum dots are inorganic semiconductor nano-crystals. The technology can boost the color gamut in an LCD TV. In many respects, quantum dot technology is breathing new life into the LCD TV market.

In some cases, TV makers are combing 4K TV technology with quantum dots, thereby enabling displays with unprecedented resolutions.

Quantum dot TVs are pushing out the demand for OLED TVs, which were supposed to be the next big thing in high-resolution TVs. OLEDs are primarily being used for smartphone displays, however.

Honorable mentions
Here’s a few others to watch: 2D materials (graphene, boron nitride, transition-metal dichalcogenides); 5G networks; 2.5D/3D packaging; monolithic 3D; MEMS; next-generation memories (Magnetoresistive RAM, PCM, ReRAM); SOI (FD-SOI and RF SOI); quantum computing; photonics; and rare earths.