January 10, 2006
Purdue center working to speed research in nanoelectronics
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. The National Science Foundation and a consortium of companies seeking to accelerate nanoelectronics research announced they are providing $2 million to five university centers, including one based at Purdue University's Discovery Park.
The Purdue-based Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN), created in 2002 with a five-year, $10.5 million NSF grant, will share the $2 million with four other centers:
The Center for Nanoscopic Materials at the University of Virginia.
The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The Center for Electronic Transport in Molecular Nanostructures at Columbia University.
The Center for Nanoscale Systems and their Device Applications at Harvard University.
The $2 million is coming from the NSF and the Nanoelectronics Research Corp., an industry consortium that is a subsidiary of the Semiconductor Industry Association, which is based in San Jose, Calif. The consortium is designed to provide a competitive advantage to its member companies by delivering technical talent and early research findings from universities.
The money will be used to help the NCN tackle a critical question related to the inevitable demise of Moore's Law, a general rule that is central to the evolution and success of the computer industry.
The rule states that the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles about every 18 months, driving rapid progress in computers and telecommunications. Doubling the number of devices that can fit on a computer chip translates into a similar increase in performance. Because this doubling requires circuits to be made smaller and smaller, it is thought the limits of physics will soon make it impossible to continue at the same pace, or that it eventually will become too expensive to shrink circuits any more, hindering further progress.
Some observers have predicted Moore's Law will hit a brick wall in about a decade. At that point, conventional computer chips, called "CMOS," for complementary metal oxide semiconductor chips, will have to be replaced with a new technology.
"The big question in electronics today is: What lies beyond Moore's Law?" said Mark Lundstrom, NCN director and Purdue's Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
"This new funding is critical because it will enable us to expand our research team with four new students who will be dedicated to looking very specifically at the question of whether there is an electronic device that can replace or complement the CMOS transistor when Moore's Law ends. This is an especially exciting and important time, and we are pleased that NCN and Purdue have an opportunity to work with the NSF and the electronics industry to help define 21st century electronics."
With the four additional students, Purdue and the NCN have about 70 graduate students on its research team.
The funding announcement was made Dec. 8 during the third conference on Silicon Nanoelectronics and Beyond at the National Science Foundation, where two new university-based nanoelectronics research centers also were unveiled. A news release about the overall announcement is available at http://www.prnewswire.com/news/index_mail.shtml.
Nanoelectronics focuses on creating a new class of electronic devices that contain features measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. A nanometer is about the size of 10 atoms strung together.
The NCN uses advanced theory and simulations to explore new ideas for digital switching devices, such as innovative types of transistors, which promise to help researchers create future electronics. The NCN is located at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park, Purdue's hub for interdisciplinary research. A major focus of the NCN is to assemble diverse teams of researchers to create computer simulations that show the entire workings of a design from its tiniest, nearly atomic-scale basic building blocks, to its largest components, which are visible to the naked eye.
"We are the only team in the nation that's focusing on theory and modeling and simulation, so we have been given a very special role," Lundstrom said. "All of the other teams are experimental teams, and our mission is really to interact with all of those other teams and to lead the theory, modeling and simulation effort."
Simulations that combine all the parts of a design will be key to using nanotechnology for creating future computers, diagnostic devices for medicine, sensors for homeland security and environmental monitoring, and other potential applications.
Lundstrom is working with key NCN researchers at Purdue, including Supriyo Datta, Ashraf Alam, Kaushik Roy and Gerhard Klimeck, all professors of electrical and computer engineering, and Jayathi Murthy, a professor of mechanical engineering.
Other university members of the NCN are the University of Illinois, the University of Florida, Norfolk State University, Northwestern University, Stanford University and the University of Texas, El Paso.
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