SAN FRANCISCO Power consumption is the major technical problem facing the semiconductor industry, said Andrew Grove, chairman of the board at Intel Corp., with off-state current leakage "becoming a limiter of integration."
In a luncheon address Tuesday (Dec.10) at the International Electron Devices Meeting here, Grove said that leakage per unit of junction area regions is a major issue as chip densities increase to a billion transistors or more.
While high-k dielectrics and clever circuit design may help keep the industry on its traditional curve of doubling device densities every two to three years, those solutions are likely to run out of steam by the end of this decade. Then, designers may have to make more efficient use of the number of transistors that a certain power budget may support.
In a question-and-answer session with reporters following his speech, Grove was asked if the movement of chip manufacturing to Asian based foundries poses a "geo-political challenge" to the United States. At first, the Intel chairman appeared unwilling to answer the question, but then warmed to the topic.
Grove said currently there is a healthy interdependence between East and West, but as manufacturing and circuit design increasingly shift to Asia "it is easy to project that the interdependence becomes more one-sided, with an adverse impact on our educational system because so much of the university funding comes from industry. There is a spiral there in the wrong direction."
The shift to Asia has "huge" implications for defense as well, Grove warned.
Asked about the current downturn, Grove said the industry "over the course of the past year has been bounding along on the bottom." While the downturn is a normal, albeit severe, business cycle, he said the economy faces the potential of war in Iraq, relatively high unemployment in the United States, and a "meltdown" in several South American economies.
During his speech, Grove said that the good news is that device geometries continue to shrink on the semi-log scale predicted by Gordon Moore. "The bad news is that revenues are not cooperating."