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Fifty Years after Claude Shannon:

How the Path from Micro- to Molecular Electronics is being determined by Biology, Information Technology, Computer Architecture, Materials and Applications

Manfred Weick*

Siemens AG, Corporate Technology Department, Munich, Germany

This is an abstract for a presentation given at the
Sixth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.
There will be a link from here to the full article when it is available on the web.


Keywords: Computer architecture, information technology, lithography, microelectronic, molecular electronics, molecular rectifier, nuclear magnetic resonance, quantum computation, quantum computer, information processing at the molecular level

Forty years ago, Richard P. Feynman gave his famous talk [FEYN60], which can be indicated as the hour of birth of Nanotechnology. In 1982, Richard P. Feynman [FEYN82] considered computers based on quantum mechanical principles and speculated about the existence of a universal quantum simulator analogous to a universal Turing machine. That means, he initiates these basic technologies. The quantum computer represents a new kind of information processing with a different architecture in comparison with the so called von Neuman machine.

Electronic products are steadily becoming smaller, thinner, lighter, faster, and less expensive. The semiconductor industry achieved its world-leading status by doubling, for instance, the storage capacity every 18 months [SIA97]. Industry projections expect the annual demand for rigid disk drives alone, largely for personal computers and file servers, to grow from about 160, 6 million terabytes (80 times the storage equivalent for the global knowledge, see Fig. 1) in 1996 to an awe-inspiring 2.800 million terabytes (1400 times the global knowledge) or more by 2000. These trends are expected to continue and accelerate into the 21st century, challenging the foundation of today's electronics technology. However, rapid change is possible only with an agile, responsive supply and manufacturing infrastructure.

Figure 1
Full size Figure 1

Fig. 1: 2 x 1018 bytes of global knowledge and its storage


Growth in communication systems, computer power and all the other things that depends on semiconductor chips, magenetic storage systems, etc. will come to an end, unless chipmakers learn to harness quantum physics. On the other hand it is necessary to develop new molecular devices [JOAC98a-c] and chip- and computer architectures [HEAT98, LENT97].

But, until now, the storage densities of technical information systems are far away from biological systems (Fig. 2) and these systems are also more energy efficient.

Figure 2

Fig. 2: Examples for biological- and technical Information Systems


This paper describes the influence of the mainstreams on the path from micro- to molecular electronics. It also includes a prospect for applications based on molecular electronics and quantum computers.


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*Corresponding Address:
Manfred Weick
Siemens AG, Corporate Technology Department
Otto-Hahn-Ring 6, D-81739 Munich Germany
telephone: +49 89 636-48028; fax: +49 89 636-40046

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