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NIST, SRC-NRI Enter Partnership to Drive Search for Next-Generation Computer Technology

For Immediate Release: September 13, 2007

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Contact: Ben Stein
301-975-3097

Collaboration Aims to Strengthen the Nation's Lead in Nanoelectronics  

Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), the world’s leading university-research consortium for semiconductors and related technologies, and the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced a public-private partnership to support research and innovation in nanoelectronics, which is an emerging area in electronics that exploits the unique properties of nanometer-scale materials.  The goal is to develop a radical, yet practical, successor to the basic electronic building block in today’s computers and to demonstrate its feasibility in computer circuits during the next 5-10 years.

Over the next year, NIST will contribute $2.76 million to the effort, which, when combined with funds from industry, will provide close to $4 million of new research grants. The partnership, aimed to provide $18.5 million over five years, will fund a variety of high-priority research projects identified by the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI), which coordinates research in nanoelectronics among major universities across the country. Through the initiative, researchers will strive to replace the world’s most commonly used electronic component, known as the Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor (CMOS FET), which has driven the world’s computers for more than 30 years but may hit its technological limits in the next decade.

Based on the results of an open competition launched in May 2007, NIST chose NRI as an ideal industry-led consortium with which NIST could partner to accelerate research in electronics that goes beyond CMOS. The competition was part of a NIST-wide effort to explore new models of public-private partnerships for R&D investment to accelerate and promote innovation.

"By selecting NRI for long-term partnership, we are facilitating research that will continue critical advances in future-generation computer technology," said James Turner, acting director of NIST. "Those gains will support America’s continued leadership in the field of nanoelectronics. By collaborating with NRI-sponsored researchers, NIST will be able to ensure that its programs focus on developing critical measurement tools likely to accelerate advances in the nanoelectronics field."

"This is an exciting match in many ways. NRI is gaining not only a new funding partner, but one with deep technological expertise," said Jeff Welser, director of the SRC-NRI. "This will be made a true partnership with strong collaboration among NRI and NIST researchers for scientific input on the ongoing NRI university research programs."

The collaboration between NIST and NRI will contribute directly to a primary goal of NRI, the development of an electronic component that can replace the conventional CMOS FET in the year 2020 and beyond. It is also consistent with NIST’s mission to foster innovation.

The chip industry’s ability to miniaturize CMOS electronics and create consistently higher-performing chips has driven the IT economy for almost a half century. The most widely used integrated circuit technology, CMOS is found in almost every electronic product, from handheld devices to mainframe computers. However, as circuit components approach single-atom dimensions, conventional electronic devices become unreliable and consume too much power, limiting the ability to miniaturize them to the smallest possible sizes while increasing capability. Many experts predict that a new approach will be necessary to continue information-technology productivity improvements and the incredible economic benefits it enables.

NIST scientists and engineers already concentrate on nanoelectronics research within their labs, including a special focus on advancing the science of measurement. Their expertise helps make possible the ultra-precise engineering and manufacturing required by the most advanced current and future chip technologies. As part of the partnership with NRI, NIST staff also will contribute their expertise in numerous areas that are vital to identifying new materials for nanoelectronics. By collaborating with NRI-sponsored researchers, NIST is acting upon the conclusions of its major February 2007 report, "An Assessment of the United States Measurement System" (http://usms.nist.gov), which calls for developing measurement techniques for frontier technologies such as post-CMOS electronics.

The NRI coordinates research in nanoelectronics among several universities in the United States. To accelerate the work, three major research centers have been established by NRI. The centers are Western Institute of Nanoelectronics (WIN), based in California; Institute for Nanoelectronic Discovery and Exploration (INDEX), based in New York; and Southwest Academy for Nanoelectronics (SWAN), based in Texas. Each of these centers receives significant support, both in new infrastructure and funding for nanoelectronics research, from their state government, as well as additional funds provided by SRC member companies in the region of each center.

Companies already participating in NRI are Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.; Freescale Semiconductor, Inc.; IBM Corp.; Intel Corp.; Micron Technology, Inc.; and Texas Instruments, Inc. Senior scientists from these companies help define and guide the NRI technical program, as well as assign researchers to collaborate with the university teams.

About SRC-NRI
NRI is one of three research program entities of SRC. Celebrating 25 years of collaborative research for the semiconductor industry, SRC defines industry needs, invests in and manages the research that gives its members a competitive advantage in the dynamic global marketplace. Awarded the National Medal of Technology, America’s highest recognition for contributions to technology, SRC expands the industry knowledge base and attracts premier students to help innovate and transfer semiconductor technology to the commercial industry. SRC also seeks to leverage funding from global government agencies. For more information, visit www.src.org and nri.src.org.

About NIST
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. For more information, visit www.nist.gov.

This press release has been jointly issued by NIST and SRC-NRI.

Additional contact: Scott Stevens, SRC, 512-413-9540