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  • Computers used to be as big as a room.

  • But now they fit in your pocket,

  • on your wrist

  • and can even be implanted inside of your body.

  • How cool is that?

  • And this has been enabled by the miniaturization of transistors,

  • which are the tiny switches in the circuits

  • at the heart of our computers.

  • And it's been achieved through decades of development

  • and breakthroughs in science and engineering

  • and of billions of dollars of investment.

  • But it's given us vast amounts of computing,

  • huge amounts of memory

  • and the digital revolution that we all experience and enjoy today.

  • But the bad news is,

  • we're about to hit a digital roadblock,

  • as the rate of miniaturization of transistors is slowing down.

  • And this is happening at exactly the same time

  • as our innovation in software is continuing relentlessly

  • with artificial intelligence and big data.

  • And our devices regularly perform facial recognition or augment our reality

  • or even drive cars down our treacherous, chaotic roads.

  • It's amazing.

  • But if we don't keep up with the appetite of our software,

  • we could reach a point in the development of our technology

  • where the things that we could do with software could, in fact, be limited

  • by our hardware.

  • We've all experienced the frustration of an old smartphone or tablet

  • grinding slowly to a halt over time

  • under the ever-increasing weight of software updates and new features.

  • And it worked just fine when we bought it not so long ago.

  • But the hungry software engineers have eaten up all the hardware capacity

  • over time.

  • The semiconductor industry is very well aware of this

  • and is working on all sorts of creative solutions,

  • such as going beyond transistors to quantum computing

  • or even working with transistors in alternative architectures

  • such as neural networks

  • to make more robust and efficient circuits.

  • But these approaches will take quite some time,

  • and we're really looking for a much more immediate solution to this problem.

  • The reason why the rate of miniaturization of transistors is slowing down

  • is due to the ever-increasing complexity of the manufacturing process.

  • The transistor used to be a big, bulky device,

  • until the invent of the integrated circuit

  • based on pure crystalline silicon wafers.

  • And after 50 years of continuous development,

  • we can now achieve transistor features dimensions

  • down to 10 nanometers.

  • You can fit more than a billion transistors

  • in a single square millimeter of silicon.

  • And to put this into perspective:

  • a human hair is 100 microns across.

  • A red blood cell, which is essentially invisible,

  • is eight microns across,

  • and you can place 12 across the width of a human hair.

  • But a transistor, in comparison, is much smaller,

  • at a tiny fraction of a micron across.

  • You could place more than 260 transistors

  • across a single red blood cell

  • or more than 3,000 across the width of a human hair.

  • It really is incredible nanotechnology in your pocket right now.

  • And besides the obvious benefit

  • of being able to place more, smaller transistors on a chip,

  • smaller transistors are faster switches,

  • and smaller transistors are also more efficient switches.

  • So this combination has given us

  • lower cost, higher performance and higher efficiency electronics

  • that we all enjoy today.

  • To manufacture these integrated circuits,

  • the transistors are built up layer by layer,

  • on a pure crystalline silicon wafer.

  • And in an oversimplified sense,

  • every tiny feature of the circuit is projected

  • onto the surface of the silicon wafer

  • and recorded in a light-sensitive material

  • and then etched through the light-sensitive material

  • to leave the pattern in the underlying layers.

  • And this process has been dramatically improved over the years

  • to give the electronics performance we have today.

  • But as the transistor features get smaller and smaller,

  • we're really approaching the physical limitations

  • of this manufacturing technique.

  • The latest systems for doing this patterning

  • have become so complex

  • that they reportedly cost more than 100 million dollars each.

  • And semiconductor factories contain dozens of these machines.

  • So people are seriously questioning: Is this approach long-term viable?

  • But we believe we can do this chip manufacturing

  • in a totally different and much more cost-effective way

  • using molecular engineering and mimicking nature

  • down at the nanoscale dimensions of our transistors.

  • As I said, the conventional manufacturing takes every tiny feature of the circuit

  • and projects it onto the silicon.

  • But if you look at the structure of an integrated circuit,

  • the transistor arrays,

  • many of the features are repeated millions of times.

  • It's a highly periodic structure.

  • So we want to take advantage of this periodicity

  • in our alternative manufacturing technique.

  • We want to use self-assembling materials

  • to naturally form the periodic structures

  • that we need for our transistors.

  • We do this with the materials,

  • then the materials do the hard work of the fine patterning,

  • rather than pushing the projection technology to its limits and beyond.

  • Self-assembly is seen in nature in many different places,

  • from lipid membranes to cell structures,

  • so we do know it can be a robust solution.

  • If it's good enough for nature, it should be good enough for us.

  • So we want to take this naturally occurring, robust self-assembly

  • and use it for the manufacturing of our semiconductor technology.

  • One type of self-assemble material --

  • it's called a block co-polymer --

  • consists of two polymer chains just a few tens of nanometers in length.

  • But these chains hate each other.

  • They repel each other,

  • very much like oil and water or my teenage son and daughter.

  • (Laughter)

  • But we cruelly bond them together,

  • creating an inbuilt frustration in the system,

  • as they try to separate from each other.

  • And in the bulk material, there are billions of these,

  • and the similar components try to stick together,

  • and the opposing components try to separate from each other

  • at the same time.

  • And this has a built-in frustration, a tension in the system.

  • So it moves around, it squirms until a shape is formed.

  • And the natural self-assembled shape that is formed is nanoscale,

  • it's regular, it's periodic, and it's long range,

  • which is exactly what we need for our transistor arrays.

  • So we can use molecular engineering

  • to design different shapes of different sizes

  • and of different periodicities.

  • So for example, if we take a symmetrical molecule,

  • where the two polymer chains are similar length,

  • the natural self-assembled structure that is formed

  • is a long, meandering line,

  • very much like a fingerprint.

  • And the width of the fingerprint lines

  • and the distance between them

  • is determined by the lengths of our polymer chains

  • but also the level of built-in frustration in the system.

  • And we can even create more elaborate structures

  • if we use unsymmetrical molecules,

  • where one polymer chain is significantly shorter than the other.

  • And the self-assembled structure that forms in this case

  • is with the shorter chains forming a tight ball in the middle,

  • and it's surrounded by the longer, opposing polymer chains,

  • forming a natural cylinder.

  • And the size of this cylinder

  • and the distance between the cylinders, the periodicity,

  • is again determined by how long we make the polymer chains

  • and the level of built-in frustration.

  • So in other words, we're using molecular engineering

  • to self-assemble nanoscale structures

  • that can be lines or cylinders the size and periodicity of our design.

  • We're using chemistry, chemical engineering,

  • to manufacture the nanoscale features that we need for our transistors.

  • But the ability to self-assemble these structures

  • only takes us half of the way,

  • because we still need to position these structures

  • where we want the transistors in the integrated circuit.

  • But we can do this relatively easily

  • using wide guide structures that pin down the self-assembled structures,

  • anchoring them in place

  • and forcing the rest of the self-assembled structures

  • to lie parallel,

  • aligned with our guide structure.

  • For example, if we want to make a fine, 40-nanometer line,

  • which is very difficult to manufacture with conventional projection technology,

  • we can manufacture a 120-nanometer guide structure

  • with normal projection technology,

  • and this structure will align three of the 40-nanometer lines in between.

  • So the materials are doing the most difficult fine patterning.

  • And we call this whole approach "directed self-assembly."

  • The challenge with directed self-assembly

  • is that the whole system needs to align almost perfectly,

  • because any tiny defect in the structure could cause a transistor failure.

  • And because there are billions of transistors in our circuit,

  • we need an almost molecularly perfect system.

  • But we're going to extraordinary measures

  • to achieve this,

  • from the cleanliness of our chemistry

  • to the careful processing of these materials

  • in the semiconductor factory

  • to remove even the smallest nanoscopic defects.

  • So directed self-assembly is an exciting new disruptive technology,

  • but it is still in the development stage.

  • But we're growing in confidence that we could, in fact, introduce it

  • to the semiconductor industry

  • as a revolutionary new manufacturing process

  • in just the next few years.

  • And if we can do this, if we're successful,

  • we'll be able to continue

  • with the cost-effective miniaturization of transistors,

  • continue with the spectacular expansion of computing

  • and the digital revolution.

  • And what's more, this could even be the dawn of a new era

  • of molecular manufacturing.

  • How cool is that?

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Computers used to be as big as a room.

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TED】Karl Skjonnemand.未来の自己集合型コンピュータチップ (未来の自己集合型コンピュータチップ|カール・スクジョンネマンド) (【TED】Karl Skjonnemand: The self-assembling computer chips of the future (The self-assembling computer chips of the future | Karl Skjonnemand))

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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