EETimes.com – ISSCC 2010 Preview: Assessing ’05 predictions

EETimes.com – ISSCC 2010 Preview: Assessing ’05 predictions.

At the 2005 International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), a panel looked beyond the horizon to consider what the hot topics might be in 2010. Did anyone get it right? Let’s see based on the panelists’ statements that I have quoted completely out of context.

Werner Weber of Infineon: “Expect new memory concepts to arise and mature.”

We seem forever on the precipice without ever taking the plunge. A session at this year’s ISSCC on nonvolatile memory offers a mix of the emerging (Unity’s CMOx paper) and several on maturing technologies, including two Numonyx papers on PCRAM. The definition of maturity may be determined by whether Numonyx ships 1G samples this quarter as predicted.

Dennis Monticelli, National Semiconductor: “The most interesting advances in 2010 will come from CMOS/BiCMOS processes optimized expressly for mixed-signal circuits.”

An analog techniques session boasts ten out of ten circuits built on CMOS platforms.

Bill Redman White: “Connectivity in general stays [as] a big driver with the hot wire/less standard of the day getting the limelight, while bio/medical will grow.”

This was a safe bet since we always seem to have more data than the pipes can handle. Several panels this year could be traced back to this prediction (at least I would if I had made it five years ago). A Feb. 8 evening panel addresses energy efficient, high speed interfaces while a Feb. 9 panel on the future of bionics seems to suggest a steadily growing capability in that field.

The 2005 panelists deserve a passing grade for their predictions. To put them into some historical context, we can compare their predictions with what other experts predicted five years ago. “Is There Life Beyond CMOS?” is the question S.M. Solomon of IBM attempted to answer with his presentation. It was a time when the challenges to scaling planar CMOS technology were starting to appear insurmountable. With the benefit of hindsight, strained silicon channels provided the drive current boost that dimensional scaling could not.

This was followed by the introduction of metal gates and high-K dielectrics to avoid bouncing off the electrostatics brick wall for control of the FET channel. MugFETs and vertical channels have not matured beyond the lab but continue to attract a lot of research attention. FinFETs or something similar are probably still another decade away if III-V channel materials will arrive first.

That’s exactly what we heard last year from Intel Fellow Mike Mayberry. His blog tracks major milestones in the progress of the silicon replacement program. It’s required reading for those with even a passing interest in the future of microelectronics technology.

Following this theme, there is the obligatory “Beyond CMOS” session at ISSCC 2010. on Feb. 7. It’s interesting to remember that Solomon’s paper from 2005 closed with the question, “Is it necessary to replace CMOS with anything?”

If any emerging technology is going to take hold, there will have to be some new design infrastructure. ISSCC is devoting some time to study how to design real circuits using the devices and technologies presented at venues like IEDM. Hence, a session on design for emerging technologies. The Association of Super-Advanced Electronics Technologies (Yokohama, Japan) will present the fourth paper of the session. Its paper deviates a bit from the theme, since it involves using advanced technologies to build improved test jigs for today’s wafer fab. An IMEC-Qualcomm paper may make you wonder if TSV technology is really ready for mainstream production.

CMOS replacement discussions always catch my eye. Otherwise, I may have never noticed a paper on user-customizable logic with an organic sea-of-transmission gates architecture and ink-jet printed interconnects, a collaboration between the Univeristy of Tokyo, Mitsubishi Paper Mills and the Max Planck Institute for Solid-State Research in Stuttgart, Germany.

The authors have apparently developed a method that allows fabrication of custom ICs using an ink jet printer Best Buy threw in when you bought your last PC. We are surely on the verge of the second great electronics hobbyist boom. Can the next Wozniak-Jobs tandem be far behind?

Perhaps ISSCC organizers have also learned something by looking back. After all, the 2005 panelist predictions pop up on the first page of a Google search for ISSCC 2010. One panel takes a longer view. “The Semiconductor Industry in 2025” requires more imagination than ISSCC organizers expected five years ago. And this year’s won’t show up 15 years from now when my daughter is writing this blog, and searching for the 2025 conference program.

  1. “FinFETs or something similar are probably still another decade away if III-V channel materials will arrive first” It’s hard to believe III-V channel come before Si based non planar device. FinFET is all architecture and integration issues which are a lot easier to solve than material issues that III-V channel has in the MOS system. We already know that Intel uses integration skill to overcome material issues in HK/MG technology.

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