The past 50 years have seen enormous advances in electronics
and the systems that depend upon or exploit them. The Department
of Defense (DOD) has been an important driver in, and a
profound beneficiary of, these advances, which have come so regularly
that many observers expect them to continue indefinitely.
However, as Jean de la Fontaine said, “In all matters one must
consider the end.” A substantial literature debates the ultimate
limits to progress in solid-state electronics as they apply to the
current paradigm for silicon integrated circuit (IC) technology.
The outcome of this debate will have a profound societal impact
because of the key role that silicon ICs play in computing, information,
and sensor technologies.
The consequences for DOD are profound. For example, DOD
planning assumptions regarding total situational awareness have
been keyed to Moore's Law, which predicts the doubling of transistor
density about every 18 months. While this prediction
proved to be accurate for more than thirty years, we are entering
a period when industry will have increasing difficulty in sustaining
this pace. Under the current device and manufacturing paradigm,
progress in areas such as total situational awareness will
slow or stagnate. If DOD planning assumptions are to be met, the
DOD science and technology program would be well advised to
search aggressively for alternate paradigms beyond those on
which Moore's Law is based to ensure new technology capabilities.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the current prognosis
for silicon IC technology from a DOD perspective.
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