Death of CMOS?

GP Singh
January 5, 2024
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The inevitable demise of CMOS technology is a topic often discussed in tech circles. While it is true that CMOS will eventually be replaced, this transition is still several decades away for the average consumer.

Understanding CMOS

CMOS is more than just an abbreviation for Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor. It represents a technology that transforms sand into chips capable of performing magical tasks, forming the backbone of all electronics. From supercomputers to smartphones like the iPhone, and even down to the simplest sub-dollar toy singing a lullaby to a newborn, CMOS is the unsung hero.

The Persistent Predictions of CMOS’s End

For over two decades, experts have predicted the end of CMOS, yet it has only grown more prevalent. Human innovation has continually pushed CMOS forward, allowing it to scale down to 10 picometers (0.1 Angstrom) or even smaller. This resilience comes from overcoming numerous challenges, including wavelength limitations, gate oxide stress, threshold voltage limitations, and more. Each obstacle has been met with groundbreaking solutions, such as:

1. Patterning and OPC for wavelength limitations.
2. Metal-oxide gates and doping for threshold voltage issues.
3. 3D transistors and metal gates for channel leakage problems.

Risks to CMOS

One of the biggest risks is the lack of competition fueled by business consolidation. In the past two decades, we have seen a significant slowdown in momentum for semiconductor innovations. Thanks to the bold vision of one visionary, smartphone chips have kept the innovations for process scaling alive. Innovations in high speed and low power have more or less stalled for the past two decades, attributed to a lack of competition. However, the arrival of AI computers will likely address this problem, leading to more innovations in CMOS speed and low power in the near and distant future. Another risk is global non-cooperation among scientists, caused by various factors, including the political ecosystem. However, these risks apply to alternative technologies as well, meaning CMOS will remain a dominant force in electronics for a long time to come.

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