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In the age of the micro-miniature

Semiconductor technology is giving us something we did not possess before. It is the ability to look at the natural world in a new way.

Size is no longer a limitation. Semiconductor devices will allow us to look deep inside ourselves.

Mallouk Lab/Penn State

Mallouk Lab/Penn State

It started with shrinking a digital camera to the size of a single imaging IC and putting it in a mobile phone or insect-sized micro-helicopter. It has ended with a nano-scale motor that could heal human cells from within.

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Semiconductor technology now gives us the incredibly small as well as the impressively fast.

It is a natural evolution of semiconductor scaling. First there was the ability to shrink transistors to a scale where millions can create the performance of a mainframe computer in a mobile phone. Semiconductor miniaturisation put unimaginable performance in our hands and the world changed.

Now we enter a new age where this same miniaturisation works in a different direction. It creates micromachines and nanomotors that will change our perception of the way we look at the world, in ways just as profound as the way the microprocessor as changed the way we communicate.

Semiconductor scaling operates on the macro and micro levels.

The macro level – the scaling of performance in smaller and lower power designs – has reached a point where it is difficult to see where it can go.

The micro level – the scaling size and function – has only just started.

With Penn State University’s nanomotor which can be controlled inside a human cell, I see something new.

A world which, quite literally, I was not aware of. Exploring this world is the next challenge for semiconductor technology. This will be the age of the micro-minature.


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