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  • Mon, Mar 19 2012 5:04 PM

    What Comes After Silicon?

    What Comes After Silicon? by Randy Hoffner reprinted from 3/6/2012

    Let's talk about silicon-- semiconductors, that is. 
    The concept of the transistor dates back to at least 1925, when a physicist named Julius Edgar Lilenfeld obtained a Canadian patent for a field-effect transistor. He later obtained U.S. patents for the same device, although he never published any papers about the device or described a working model. In 1947, Bell Telephone Labs devised a working germanium transistor, and in 1951, announced a working junction transistor. The prototypes were of course considerably larger than the vacuum tubes they eventually replaced, and the early production devices were quite fragile electrically. I remember as a young lad experimenting with and learning about radio and electronics in the 1950's, thinking that transistors probably did not have much of a future. Oh well. Doped silicon semiconductors have for decades been the basis of the ever more complex and powerful electronics that have become such a central part of our lives, both personal and professional. In 1960, an electrical engineer named Douglas Engelbart proposed the idea that if the basic circuitry of digital computers, which then consisted of vacuum tubes, could be reduced in size, this could lead to a dramatic increase in their power.  MOORE'S LAW We are all familiar with a lithographic chemist named Gordon Moore, who in 1965 stated in an article in "Electronics," that the number of components that could be incorporated per integrated circuit would increase exponentially over time. This became known as Moore's Law. Since 1970, the number of components per chip of a given size has doubled every two years. This has produced a "virtuous cycle," in which the size, component density, and power of electronic devices has steadily increased. According to "More Than Moore," a white paper published by the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS), in 1954, five years before the integrated circuit was invented, the average price of a transistor was $5.52. By 2004, the price had dropped to a billionth of a dollar per transistor. Computer processor chips are comprised of complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) devices, which were called complementary-symmetry metal oxide semiconductors or "cos-mos," by their inventor, RCA. CMOS transistors use considerably less power than bipolar transistors, making the exponentially increasing numbers of transistors practical, up to a point. But the doubling of the density of CMOS transistor fabrication every two years has reached the point at which real limits have appeared. In 2011 the target semiconductor feature size shrank from the 2009 target of 32 nanometers (32 x 10-9 meter) to 22 nanometers. At 32 nanometers, the gate oxide thickness is 1.2 nanometers, or 5 silicon atoms thick. At this point, electron tunneling through short channels, thin insulator films and their associated leakage currents, ever-increasing clock speeds, and other effects have led to increased fabrication costs and the generation of a furious amount of heat. Ten years ago, Intel's chief technology officer warned that if trends continued in the way they had been going, by 2011, microprocessor chips would reach the surface temperature of the sun. CARBON NANOTUBE TRANSISTORS One technology that is being explored as a replacement for today's semiconductors is the use of carbon nanotubes to make carbon nanotube field-effect transistors, or CNFETs. Carbon atoms are found in four different allotropes, or structural forms. The atoms may be bound in tetrahedral lattices, in which form they are known as diamond; in multiple sheets of hexagonal lattices, in which form they are known as graphite; in the form of graphene, which is a single sheet of graphite; or as fullerenes, where the atoms are bound together in spherical, tubular, or ellipsoid formations. Graphene is a single sheet of carbon bound in the form of a hexagonal lattice resembling a tiny chicken-wire sort of structure that has the unique property that it can roll up, forming a hollow cylinder a few atoms wide (see Fig. 1). Owing to quantum mechanics, depending on the angle at which the graphene is cut from the sheet, the resulting nanotube has a particular chirality, or "twist," which chirality gives the nanotube electrical properties ranging from metallic conduction, to semiconduction, to a small gap. A semiconducting nanotube is placed on a substrate, with gold forming the contacts: the sources, gates, and drains of the field effect transistors. It is hoped that within the next five years this method will produce semiconductors whose feature size is as small as 7 nanometers. The world as we know it has become dependent on digital devices of ever increasing complexity and power. Somewhat ironically, this boils down to making a lot of ever smaller and ever faster on/off switches. Practical carbon nanotube transistors could keep this game running for a few more Moore's Law cycles, which will give us more time to come up with the next step. Of course, when we reach the point where we can make single-atom digital switches, that would appear to be the end of it. Unless we can devise a quark switch. Jim Alfonse
    Tri-Sys Designs

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  • Mon, Mar 19 2012 5:12 PM In reply to

    Re: What Comes After Silicon?

    Huh?  At least use an occasional CR+LF ... might make it a bit easier to read Hmm

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  • Tue, Mar 20 2012 12:37 AM In reply to

    • Pixel Monkey
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    Re: What Comes After Silicon?

    How to Fry an Egg - Reprinted from some website somewhere. A fried egg over a simple salad or a bowl of grains and veggies is one of the best quick meals we can think of. It follows that frying a good egg is one of the best basic techniques you can know! Here's how we do it: 1. Choose The Skillet: Use a skillet that's large enough to hold all the eggs you want to cook. If we're cooking a single egg just for ourselves, we use our tiny 8-inch skillet. If we're cooking several for a big brunch, we use our larger 14-inch skillet. For fried eggs, we prefer non-stick or well-seasoned cast-iron so that we can be sure the eggs don't stick. If you're using a stainless steel skillet, just be sure to use enough oil. 2. Heat the Skillet: Set your pan over medium heat and let it warm up. Add 1-3 teaspoons of oil or butter (depending on the size of your pan), and swirl to coat the pan. You can use any kind of oil here that you like. Butter gives the eggs an extra richness and olive oil will impart some of its clean, grassy flavor. You can also use canola oil, or if you're feeling very indulgent, bacon or duck fat. 3. Crack the Eggs: We crack our eggs directly into the pan, but you can crack it into a ramekin and transfer it to the pan if that feels more comfortable. Drop the egg into the pan slowly so the whites pour out first. If the pan is hot enough, the whites will begin to set and keep the yolk centered. 4. Cook the Eggs: Once you've cracked the eggs in the pan, just let them sit. Fried eggs don't need much help from us! They are done when the whites are set and the outer edges are just starting to curl up. If the edges start to curl before the whites in the center are fully cooked, cover the pan with a lid for a minute or two. We like our eggs sunny side up to ensure a perfect runny yolk, meaning the egg is only fried on one side as we've described above. If you prefer your eggs over-easy, you can flip them partway through cooking once the bottom has set. This makes sure the top is cooked...




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