Messe Muenchen has set up a separate exhibition area for micro and nanoelectronics at electronica 2006. In the MicroNanoWorld area there will be exhibits from industrial companies and research institutes.
Nano semiconductor technology — with structures in the range of one millionth of a millimetre — is considered to be one of the key technologies for the 21st century. One important step towards realising nano chips has already been taken. Researchers have succeeded in building a simple electric circuit on a single cylindrical molecule of carbon (referred to as a nanotube). Nanotubes feature excellent electrical conductivity and transport the electric charge at the lowest possible levels of current consumption. Consequently, they offer a foundation for constructing smaller and faster semiconductor chips, and they could displace the silicon semiconductors that are currently in use.
This obsolescence is possible because silicon technology is reaching the limits of its miniaturisation capabilities, particularly as a result of its high-energy requirements and the heat that is generated on the chip. This disadvantage cannot be fully eliminated through atomic changes in the silicon or through the aid of insulating layers.
Nevertheless, there is a great deal of development work to do before the new circuits on nanotubes can replace conventional silicon chips. This is because the clock speed of just 52 MHz that has been reached under laboratory conditions must be increased. Designers, however, will be using this development period to shrink the other components on the chip down to nano size too.