Future Trends in Microelectronics: Off the Beaten Path

Wiley Interscience Publishers

(to appear)


In the summer of 1998 a Workshop was held at a beautiful French island in the Mediterranean (Ile des Embiez) entitled Future Trends in Microelectronics: Off the Beaten Path. The inspiration for this meeting was, as for its predecessor at Ile de Bendor, France (June 1995), the widespread feeling that the microelectronics industry is at a crossroad. Many of us sense a turning point in the logical evolution of the giant VLSI industry, which, of course, is and will remain the dominant force in microelectronics.

Ever since the invention of the transistor and especially after the advent of integrated circuits, semiconductor devices have kept expanding their role in our life. For better or worse our civilization is destined to be based on semiconductors. Transistor circuits entertain us and keep track of our money, they fight our wars and decipher the secret codes of life, and one day, perhaps, they will relieve us from the burden of thinking and making responsible decisions.  Inasmuch as that day has not yet arrived, we have to fend for ourselves. The key to success is a clear vision of where are we heading in these turbulent times.

The celebrated Si technology has known a virtually one-dimensional path of development: reducing the minimal size of lithographic features. Looking down the road, some see storm clouds loom large over major "technological discontinuities".  From economical viewpoint, there is a widespread fear that this path has taken us to the point of diminishing return. This fear has resulted in reduced investments in hardware technology and even in R&D in favor of dramatically increased interest in software and circuit design within existing technologies.

There is certainly no shortage of opinion about what is going on in our profession.  Some, haunted by the specter of steel industry, believe that the semiconductor microelectronics industry has matured and the research game is over. Others believe the progress in hardware technology will come back roaring, based on innovative research.  A free-spirited debate of these questions between the leading professionals in the Industry, Government, and Academia was the main purpose of the Embiez Workshop. Identifying the scenario for the future evolution of microelectronics presents a tremendous opportunity for constructive action today.

Like the earlier Workshop in Bendor, this meeting was by invitation only. The format of the Workshop included prepared invited presentations, ad hoc contributions and uninhibited exchanges of views and rebuttals, expressions and critiques of new ideas. Some of the key luminaries of our profession shared their opinions and led the discussions on where we are going and/or should be going. Balanced representations of advocacy and opposition were intentionally sought. Limited by the capacity of the meeting place, over 80 people of highest caliber attended the meeting.

In keeping with the successful format worked out at Ile de Bendor, each of the five Workshop days began with presentations by key speakers and concluded with an evening panel session with two or three lead (and provocative) position statements, followed by debates among the panelists (all participants). The debate has been forcefully moderated and irrelevant digressions cut off without mercy.  Moderators were also assigned a hopeless task to to forge a consensus on critical issues.

The oral presentations, discussions and debates were complemented by afternoon poster sessions where the latest experimental results, achievements, and supporting data could be displayed in the form of posters. Formal presentations, each including a 20-minute question period, comprise the morning session of each day.  It has been intended and requested that the morning presentations focussed not on the description of recent achievements of the speaker or his/her group - these being covered in posters - but concentrate on the future trends in sharp, often provocative, terms. The panel discussions centered around the core issue(s) covered by the morning session and the afternoon poster session of the day.  The topics of discussion and the complete list of all attendees and their co-authors are appended below.

Compared to the earlier meeting at Bendor, the Embiez Workshop had a much stronger representation from microelectronics giants
of Asia. Perhaps for this reason, or maybe due to rapidly changed times, we saw a greater consensus on several key issues, expected to be controversial. Thus, speaker after speaker declared Moore's Law dead, as it applies to one-dimensional miniaturization trend.
At the same time, most speakers agreed that exponential development of microelectronics will continue for quite some time -- with no end in sight -- but shrinking silicon devices will not dominate this exponent. Toward the end of the Workshop it has become clear that the attendees collectively have a coherent while multifaceted message that should be shared with the professional community at large. This book represents an attempt to code and transmit this message. Coding is of course necessary because "medium is the message" and we are now "in print" !


This book is a collective treatise by all attendees of the Embiez meeting. It is offered to you thanks to a bold decision by Wiley Publishers,  thanks especially to George Telecki, a Senior Editor of Wiley Interscience.

The conference at Ile des Embiez was possible owing to support from

  • National Science Foundation: (DMR, ECS, INT)
  • Department of Defense: (Army, Navy, AF, DoD-Europe, DARPA)
  • European Union: (Phantoms)
  • Industry: (Samsung, Motorola, Toshiba, Nortel, France Telecom)
  • On behalf of all Workshop attendees sincere gratitude is expressed to the above organizations for their generous support and especially to the following individuals whose initiative was indispensable:

  • Deborah L. Crawford
  • Herbert Goronkin
  • LaVerne D. Hess
  • Hiroshi Iwai
  • Rajinder Khosla
  • Jong-Gil Lee
  • Yoon-Soo Park
  • Gernot S. Pomrenke
  • Marc van Rossum
  • John M. Santiago, Jr.
  • Claudine Simson
  • Michael A. Stroscio
  • Yoichi Unno
  • Albert Zylbersztejn

    Appendix 1. Listing of topics offered for discussion.
  •  What is the technical limit to shrinking devices? Is there an economic sense in pursuing this limit? In the memory market? In the microprocessor market?
  •  What kind of research does the silicon industry need to continue its expansion?  Integrated systems?
  •  What are the anticipated trends in lithography? 13nm EUV and beyond? Limits? Modeling? Materials?  Throughputs?  Or, it's time to go for non-lithography?
  •  The wiring challenge.  Beyond the one-shot solution Cu?  Optical or superconductor wiring?
  •  Will wide-area electronics be integrated with VLSI? - What are the limits to thin film transistors?
  •  Do we need three-dimensional integration? SOI?
  •  What are the prospects and constraints of universal wafer bonding?
  •  To what extent can we trade high speed for low power? Is adiabatic computing in the cards?  Ultra-low power electronics, a matter of scaling ?
  •  What is happening in the evolution (or revolution?) of systems and architectures ?
  •  Optical interconnects; and hopeful impetus to architecture revolution ?
  •  Where are the big stake market pulls and pushes for new semiconductor technologies? 3D displays? Human-machine interfaces?
  •  Projected growth, market, technological leaders.
  •  Nanoelectronics. Where is it heading?  We can make quantum-effect devices.  Can we make them broadly useful?  Can we get around problems like critical-biasing? wiring? stochestic fluctuations?, in large scale integration? Resonant Tunneling, Single Electronics?
  •  An architecture revolution (or a second von Neumann) required?
  •  Is quantum computing more than just a mathematical exercise ? Can we have or do we need long-range coherence?  Quantum cellular automata?
  •  Non-lithographic fabrication. Promising alternatives? Broadened horizon? or hopeless pursuits?
  •  How to answer the DARPA call for "trillion transistors on a chip"? Challenges and/or fundamental problems?
  •  Single-electronics
  •  Telecom.   Photonic Networking, the obvious solution? Zero switching network?  PDH, SDH, and ATM foundamentally flawed and limited?
  •  LEO satellite network and satellite-on-wafer, a new cause for rethinking of the fiber-optics system ?
  •  Telecom and computer convergence, implications? network computers?
  •  New pushes for speed and bandwidth from 3D TV, digital photography, and virtual reality ?
  •  Plastic fibers, and tipping the balance of GaAs vs. InP?
  •  Are there green pastures beyond the semiconductor technologies? What can we expect from combinations with superconducting circuits? Molecular devices? Plastic transistors and polymer optoelectronics ? Can we hope for bioelectronics with self-produced designed cells? Any prospect for DNA computing?
  •  Biotech and microelectronics chips combination?  Chip-in-brain, doable but unacceptable?
  •  DNA assisted self assembling and packaging?
  •  Is there a need for (possibility of) integrating compound semiconductor IC's into Si VLSI? What are the merits and prospects of hybrid schemes, such as heteroepitaxy, wafer bonding and packaging?
  •  What are the most attractive system applications of optoelectronic hybrids? Camcorders? LED-CMOS or LCD-CMOS Projection TVs?  Large-area imagers and printers?
  •  What are the possible implications of opto-electro-microwave interactions?
  •  Satellite-on-wafer,  Radar-on-chip, feasible? desired? minor distraction or big stake?
  •  What can we expect from photonic bandgap structures?  Is "Photonic Computer" still a realistic hope or just a dismissible fantasy. Could or should "photonics replacing electronics" ever happen?
  •  Progress in widegap semiconductor technologies, electronic and photonic. What is happening in narrow gap semiconductors? What are the current status and prospects of cooling technologies. Are intersubband devices a viable alternative? What are the potential applications of the unipolar laser?
  •  What are current problems and ultimate goals in optical disk memories? Automotive electronics? Potential market?
  •  Changed roles of industrial, government and academic researchers.


    Appendix 2. Complete list of the attendees, authors and co-authors, their affiliation and email.

    Although only a fraction of presentations at Embiez have been selected
    for inclusion in this volume, it is really a collective treatise of
    which all attendees can be regarded as co-authors -- through their
    contribution in the debates and poster sessions, and through the general
    ambiance which made this book possible.

    [ List of Attendees ]

    July 1998

    Serge Luryi
    Jimmy Xu
    Alex Zaslavsky


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