Materials, Magnetism & Quantum Physics


For the past half-century, chipmakers have been following the same roadmap for improving performance in chips and reducing the cost of chips. That has proven tremendously effective in reducing costs and packing computing into a smaller space, allowing people to carry around what used to be a multi-million-dollar mainframe in their pocket. That approach is beginning to lose momentum. It's ge... » read more

The Power Of De-Integration


The idea that more functionality can be added into a single chip, or even into a single system, is falling out of vogue. For an increasing number of applications, it's no longer considered the best option for boosting performance or lowering power, and it costs too much. Hooman Moshar, vice president of engineering at Broadcom, said in a keynote speech at Mentor's User2User conference this w... » read more

Mashup At 7nm


The merger of two standards organizations typically falls well below the radar of most engineers, but folding the ESD Alliance (formerly known as the EDA Consortium) into SEMI is a different kind of deal. Ever since the introduction of finFETs and multiple patterning, EDA tools have become an integral part of the development of new manufacturing processes. Without those tools, there is no po... » read more

AI: The Next Big Thing


The next big thing isn't actually a thing. It's a set of finely tuned statistical models. But developing, optimizing and utilizing those models, which collectively fit under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, will require some of the most advanced semiconductors ever developed. The demand for artificial intelligence is almost ubiquitous. As with all "next big things," it is a horizonta... » read more

Race Of Nations


Technology is the next arms race, and this is not just about national defense in the traditional sense. Countries collectively are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into developing technology for the future, from education to outright grants and seed funding, and they are working with private industry to continue investing in their respective national futures. Which technologies and na... » read more

The Future Of FinFETs


The number of questions about finFETs is increasing—particularly, how long can they continue to be used before some version of gate-all-around FET is required to replace them. This discussion is confusing in many respects. For one thing, a 7nm finFET for TSMC or Samsung is not the same as a 7nm finFET for Intel or GlobalFoundries. There are a bunch of other nodes being proposed, as well, i... » read more

Silicon’s Long Game


The era of all-silicon substrates and copper wires may be coming to an end. Progress in the future increasingly depends on more exotic combinations of materials that are developed for specific applications. But after years of predicting the death of silicon, it appears those predictions may be premature. That's not always obvious, given the growing number of chemical combinations being creat... » read more

Automotive Foundries


The race to win a piece of the automotive electronics business has now reached the foundry level, and right now it's not clear exactly how this is going to work. This is uncharted territory for everyone. The build-out of electronics for assisted and autonomous driving is brand new. For existing cars, most of the chips being used are off-the-shelf microcontrollers, commodity MEMS sensors, and... » read more

The Great Skills Race


The next phase of the technology race will be fought with qualified people—but not necessarily the same people in the same markets or with the same skill sets. For the past half century, technology wars have been won and lost with inexpensive labor and increasing amounts of automation. This can be traced from the United States in the 1960s to Japan in the 1970s, Korea starting in the mid-... » read more

The Materials Gap


When consolidation thinned the ranks of semiconductor foundries and equipment makers, materials companies figured things were about to get better. They haven't. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, semiconductors are now so complex and difficult to develop that a slew of innovations are required on all sides. Everyone is familiar with transistor structures, interconnects and lithog... » read more

← Older posts