Q: What is the relationship between Nanoelectronics and Nanotechnology?
A: Nanoelectronics is the branch of electronics dealing with miniaturised electronic circuits integrated on semiconductor 'chips'. Its basic element is the transistor. Until recently, transistor dimensions were in the micrometre (µm) range (microelectronics), but today they are manufactured at 90 or 65 nanometre (nm). Nanoelectronics research is dealing with dimensions of 22nm and smaller.
Micro/nanoelectronics is a mature industrial reality, representing a world market of some 200 billion Euro per year. The microelectronics industry has been able to shrink the size of individual transistors on a chip continuously, while keeping the overall chip size fairly constant. Up to 100 million transistors per chip are feasible today. The operating speed of the chips was boosted in a similarly impressive way. This development has delivered a permanent increase of computer power at modest prices, which in turn was the motor of the unprecedented growth of the ICT industry and the incorporation of microelectronics in many other products. Therefore, although nanoelectronics could be seen as just a specific nanotechnology, it is a strategic industrial sector on its own.
Technically, the mainstream research in micro/nanoelectronics follows a 'top-down' approach. This means developing the traditional device architectures and production principles of microelectronics further to producing ever smaller components. Research in nanotechnologies is mainly 'bottom-up'. Despite all successes, the top-down approach in nanoelectronics will reach its limits, and alternative nanoelectronics devices will be developed, based on nano-effects for their functioning (e.g. quantum dot memories, spintronics) or for their production (e.g. growing of nano-wires or carbon nano-tubes). Consequently, nanoelectronics and nanotechnologies eventually may converge.