Emerging Technologies and Applications
Silicon electronics focuses on a continuous improvement of circuit performance (speed, computational power, accuracy, etc.) using more and more transistors. This is possible because the unity price and the area occupied by a transistor have been decreasing exponentially in the last 50 years (Moore’s law).
In the last decade, silicon electronics has been increasingly integrated with other technologies (e.g. power devices, images sensors, MEMs) to enable new applications in the domains of physical and chemical sensing, healthcare, automotive, lighting, etc. The name “More than Moore” has been used for these developments. The most long-term research in More than Moore’s electronics strives to integrate silicon with emerging non-silicon technologies like large-area, flexible, conformable, printed and nano-material based electronics to enable completely new applications.
The mission of the research on emerging technologies and applications is to design circuits and systems which exploit novel device technologies, in order to expand the application domain of electronics beyond what is conventionally possible with silicon integrated circuits (ICs) alone.
The domain of emerging technologies is extremely broad, and research in the use of emerging technologies for electronic application needs focus. MSM has decided to concentrate the research on circuit design for emerging technologies in two research programs:
1. Flexible and printed electronics;
Integrated silicon electronics consists of in tiny and rigid “chips”. For this reason it cannot serve all purposes. Large-area electronics has been invented for applications like flat-panel displays, where transistors must cover large surfaces. Interestingly, some technologies for large area electronics keep the processing temperature always below 200°C, enabling the use of cheap plastic films as substrates and making possible flexible large-area circuits. Further research is focusing on the use of printing methods to fabricate this “flexible electronics”, achieving higher-speed production and even lower costs.
Flexible and printed large-area electronics, for its characteristics vastly different from silicon ICs, is an ideal candidate for our work towards enabling new applications of electronics. The characteristics of large-area, flexibility and low cost can be conveniently combined for different purposes, e.g. large area sensing surfaces, sensors integrated in packaging materials and flexible displays.
2. Integration of 2D nano-materials on Silicon ICs.
Another set of emerging technologies which appears extremely promising from the circuit and system design perspective is the integration of 2D nano-material layers in the backend of line of Silicon ICs. Transistors, diodes and other devices exploiting such 2D molecular semiconductor layers have the potential to create ultra-sensitive detectors of e.g. charge and terahertz radiation on the surface of mainstream ICs.