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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Intel & AMD Look to New Materials

This past week I was in Ottawa where I gave a talk to a group of chip designers about nanotechnology. While much of my talk focused on the future applications of carbon nanotubes, nanowires, quantum dots and nanolithography, I also urged them not to lose focus on how materials science can be employed to improve their existing products.

As two recent examples, I cited Intel and AMD. Last month, Intel announced that it partnered with Qinetiq to produce a new nanomaterial called indium antimonide that company officials claimed could increase transistor speed three-fold with no corresponding increase in the use of power! An Intel official then went on to say that the material is just "one example of several new materials that Intel will continue to investigate in order to ensure Moore's Law extends well beyond the next decade."

And just last week, in a remarkably candid interview, Tom Sonderman, an executive at AMD, said "For a long time the industry just focused on making things smaller. But the new thrust is adding more and more exotic materials to extend the life of semiconductors ... in the end it's all about moving electrons faster and by adding different materials you can accomplish similar things without necessarily having to make them smaller."

These are important developments for investors to consider because they suggest that the two companies can continue to improve performance (which customers expect) without having to invest the billions of dollars necessary to build next generation fabrication facilities.