Electronics, Communications and Informatics - Markets, Technical Challenges and Global Competition

Topics Covered

Current and Future Markets with Estimated Values

Nanotechnologies That Might Open Up New Markets in the Electronics Sector

Photonic Crystals, Nonlinear Devices and Quantum Information Processing (QIP)

Quantum Structure Electronic Devices (QSDs)

Technical Challenges Facing the Nanooelectronics Industry

Photonics - Current Research and Potential Applications

Quantum Information Processing (QIP) and Quantum Computers

Global Competition in the Field of Nanoelectronics

Research and Development of Nanoelectronics in Japan, the USA and the UK

Photonics and Quantum Information Processing (QIP) in the UK, USA and Japan

Research and Development of Nanoelectronics in the UK - an Overview

Current and Future Markets with Estimated Values

The market for miniaturised systems is estimated at $40 billion. The market for IT peripherals, dominated by the USA and Japan, is more than $20 billion. There are few nanotechnology products in the marketplace, but growth is expected to be very strong, with a predicted composite annual growth rate of 30 to 40 per cent. One forecast puts the market for devices for IT and electronics based on nanotechnology at about £70 billion by 2010. The market for micro and nanotechnology systems in telecommunication is of the order of $3,500m, with an anticipated compound annual growth rate in the order of a remarkable 70 per cent or so.

Nanotechnologies That Might Open Up New Markets in the Electronics Sector

Photonic Crystals, Nonlinear Devices and Quantum Information Processing (QIP)

Photonic crystals could underpin major new markets. Ultra-high density optical integration will substantially reduce costs and power consumption, leading to widespread use in optical communications, a huge worldwide business. Nonlinear devices will also find applications in other areas such as sensors, potentially on very large scales. Quantum Information Processing (QIP) products are likely to emerge into significant markets once the technical challenges to their development have been overcome, which looks like being a longer-term process.

Quantum Structure Electronic Devices (QSDs)

Quantum Structure Electronic Devices (QSDs) are already a success story, with larger companies taking the lead. The estimated market for HEMTs by 2002 is £600m, while that for VCSELs in 2004 is £80 million; and already the quantum well laser amplifier market for 2000 is estimated at £4 billion. Key products here could span a huge range - even including white light sources for domestic illumination, where QSDs could be considerably more efficient than incandescent or fluorescence sources. Other applications include those in lasers, detectors, amplifiers, and modulators for communications systems; short wavelength lasers for CD and DVD players and recorders; and ultra-high density data storage systems. Improved speed, efficiency, and controllability, with the ability to produce and work with more wavelengths, are important here.

Technical Challenges Facing the Nanoelectronics Industry

The outstanding challenges concern methods for maintaining Moore’s Law for electronics and extending it to photonics, either by continuing miniaturisation of silicon-based devices, by the use of different materials, fabrication principles or device concepts - such as molecular electronics, carbon (or other) nanotubes, and photonic crystals.

Photonics - Current Research and Potential Applications

Research in photonics is already yielding such devices as advanced lasers. In the next five years or so such products as photonic-crystal fibre, currently a niche product, could achieve significant markets. Two-dimensional photonic integrated circuits and photonic crystal assisted vertical cavity lasers will also move out of the laboratory into commercial production. Other products, such as nonlinear gates in photonic crystal fibre and integrated circuits, are moving from research to development.

Quantum Information Processing (QIP) and Quantum Computers

Quantum Information Processing (QIP) also presents considerable technical challenges, with a need for basic research into quantum effects. The likelihood is that quantum communication systems could appear within the next decade, with quantum computers emerging later. 48  

Global Competition in the Field of Nanoelectronics

Research into new informatics technologies is spread through the universities in the UK, the USA and much of Western Europe, and through major manufacturers in Japan and the USA who are behind recent technological breakthroughs. Japan and the USA are home to the most innovative semiconductor companies and many other silicon fabrication plants are located in the Far East. Many European telecommunications companies compete successfully against Japan and the US. However, in most cases research related to nanotechnology is probably more advanced in the USA and Japan. Japan in particular is building up production and research facilities in Europe to compensate for domestic technological weaknesses, while simultaneously establishing its markets abroad.

Research and Development of Nanoelectronics in Japan, the USA and the UK

Japanese R&D tends to be organised according to guidelines determined by the government, with the MicroMachine Centre, an organisation supported by METI, the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, co-ordinating R&D on microsystems. R&D and scientific work on nanotechnology is carried out at universities as well as public research institutes and industries, and is funded by METI, to the tune of about US $100 million in the past five years. The research has a longer-term focus than is typical for the UK. there is a well focused interest in quantum computing, where some original approaches are being pursued. Molecular scale electronics is another focus. The US’s efforts are also strong. Here military funding agencies are generous in funding companies, even when there is a clear commercial benefit for the companies involved.

Photonics and Quantum Information Processing (QIP) in the UK, USA and Japan

The UK has strengths in photonics, and thus is relatively competitive against the US and Japan in such novel nanotechnology applications as photonic crystals. In QIP, the US spent around $30 million in 200, orders of magnitude greater than the equivalent UK funding level. Several major Japanese companies (NEC, Toshiba, NTT, Fujitsu etc) are investing heavily in the area, including funding research in the UK.

Research and Development of Nanoelectronics in the UK - an Overview

Research in the UK is of high quality, but faces problems in the transfer to industry. The UK is strong in telecommunications. Optoelectronics, where the UK is strong in niche optical communications areas, dominates the ICT industry. Optoelectronics is effectively the flagship of the nanotechnology and microelectronics sector in the UK. A range of companies has grown rapidly from small beginnings over the past decade. The industry is well supported by a strong R&D base. Although promising, the market is volatile: future success depends on world markets. The UK is strong in several important areas for long-term development of informatics. In the field of photonic crystal, there is strong R&D, reflecting past UK Government support and the relative strength of the country in photonics.

Primary author: Dr John Taylor, OBE, FRS, FEng, Director-General of the Research Councils.

Source: Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Report entitled ‘New Dimensions for Manufacturing: A UK Strategy for Nanotechnology’, published in June 2002.

For more information on this source please visit http://www.dti.gov.uk.

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