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  • Writer's pictureTech Forecast Digest

What’s Next After Semiconductors? Nothing?

The vacuum tube was invented in 1904. The semiconductor transistor (which displaced the vacuum tube) was invented in 1947, 43 years later. It now has been 60 years since the invention of the existing, semiconductor, technology. Seems that it’s time for a new technology.

During the past 60 years, the manufacturing of solid state semiconductor devices and design of systems using the devices has experienced extraordinary advancements which likely will continue indefinitely. The basic doped and ion-implanted semiconductor technology, however, fundamentally has not changed during that period.

What will replace semiconductors?

The smallest sizes of semiconductor nodes now are less than 20 nm with the possibility of going to 5 nm and perhaps to 1 nm using carbon nanotubes. At those sizes, uncontrollable quantum effects occur (atoms have diameters of 0.1 to 0.5 nm) that make integrated circuits beyond those sizes not possible.

Since any substitute material also will be limited by the size of the atoms comprising it, smaller size chips likely will not be possible after the next 10 years or so.

Future advancements in electronics performance will come more from improvements in the following rather than reduction in node sizes:

· Additional semi-conductor materials such as germanium, gallium arsenide, gallium

nitride, molybdenum disulfide, titanium dioxide and carbon nano materials

· Memristors - a simpler and smaller alternative to the transistor, with the capability

of altering its resistance and storing multiple memory states chips for new kinds of

non-Von Neumann computers

· Vacuum electronic devices for power critical systems such as radar

· Highly distributed more parallel and autonomous devices that incorporate artificial

intelligence algorithms

· Groups of specialized energy-efficient chips instead of individual, general-purpose


· Quantum computing for specific applications (e.g., optimization, simulations). Likely

more centralized due to temperature and mechanical requirements.

· Extreme ultraviolet lithography for manufacturing

· New algorithms for highly parallel processing devices, quantum computing and

other architectures.

Other yet undefined technologies and designs likely will develop as well to continue the improvements in the performance of electronic devices.


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