At the recent SPIE Advanced Lithography conference, Dr. Alex Liddle, of NIST’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, gave a wonderful keynote talk titled “Nanomanufacturing: Is there life after silicon?”. A better title might have been “Nanomanufacturing: Choosing technology to match the market”. The talk sprang out of his experience advising what I will call nano-widget makers on the potential viability of their processes.
Two of his main points were that the chosen process throughput must match market demand, and that process cost must match product value. Outside the domain of integrated circuits, it is not at all evident that silicon IC processes provide an appropriate technology base. Consider for a moment the throughput of an IC fab vs. total market demand for almost any other nano-device. And then consider the cost of that fab! Further, even if one could make a nano-widget in silicon, Dr. Liddle pointed out that cost-effective metrology does not exist for many nano-devices other than IC’s.
Dr. Liddle concluded his talk by referencing a large body of work that is based on artificial DNA molecules. These have the advantage that the precursors are cheap, there is by now well-developed technology for fabricating arbitrary DNA sequences from the precursors, and the resulting structures are quite stable in their 3D organization.
Check out Dr. Liddle’s web page here.