The semiconductor industry is a major driver of the modern U.S. economy and has accounted for a large portion of the productivity gains that have characterized the global economy since the 1990s. Recent advances in this area have been fueled by what is known as Moore’s Law scaling, which has successfully predicted the exponential increase in the performance of computing devices for the last 40 years. This gain has been achieved due to ever-increasing miniaturization of semiconductor processing and memory devices (smaller and faster switches and transistors). Continuing to shrink the dimensions of electronic devices is important in order to further increase processor speed, reduce device switching energy, increase system functionality, and reduce manufacturing cost per bit. However, as the dimensions of critical elements of devices approach atomic size, quantum tunneling and other quantum effects degrade and ultimately prohibit the operations of conventional devices. Researchers are therefore pursuing more radical approaches to overcome these fundamental physics limitations.
Candidate approaches include different types of logic using cellular automata or quantum entanglement and superposition; 3D spatial architectures; and information-carrying variables other than electron charge, such as photon polarization, electron spin, and position and states of atoms and molecules. Approaches based on nanoscale science, engineering, and technology are most promising for realizing these radical changes and are expected to change the very nature of electronics and the essence of how electronic devices are manufactured. Rapidly reinforcing domestic R&D successes in these arenas could establish a U.S. domestic manufacturing base that will dominate 21st-century electronics commerce. The goal of this initiative is to accelerate the discovery and use of novel nanoscale fabrication processes and innovative concepts to produce revolutionary materials, devices, systems, and architectures to advance the field of nanoelectronics.
Participating agencies include: NSF, DOD, NASA, NIST, DOE, and IC.