Unlocking the More than Moore world with 2D materials

It is well known that we are now approaching the physical limits of the device scaling properties described by Gordon Moore in Moore’s Law. As a result, the next 10 years will represent a huge watershed for an industry that has based its operation and business model on the same principles for over half a century.

The transition to a post-Moore world is by no means set in stone. There are a range of technologies under discussion, and many avenues of research being explored. That said, 2D materials offer perhaps one of the most promising areas of development.

2D materials have a role to play in the post-Moore world in one of two ways.

In the first instance the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems (IRDS) has clearly identified transistors based on 2D materials as one of the key technologies that will offer a long-term solution for extending Moore’s Law. This effort has become known as ‘Beyond CMOS’.

Although Beyond CMOS techniques will make use of new materials and techniques, the end goal of these efforts is to, as the name suggests, continue the experience we have had with existing CMOS technologies.

And certainly, the properties and predictable electrical characteristics of 2D materials offer strong potential to continue to extend the remarkable innovation and performance gains we’ve witnessed in the semiconductor industry in the last 50 years.

Of course, the R&D that will be invested in ‘Beyond CMOS’ is useful and desirable. However, perhaps the more interesting shorter term potential for 2D materials is in creating a ‘More than Moore’ (MtM) world.

This term defines a world where semiconductor devices encompass far greater functional diversity. Whereas Moore’s Law typically applied to (vital) general compute devices, MtM refers to far broader range of devices – sometimes referred to as heterogeneous integration.

Indeed, the IRDS has highlighted that these functions “may imply analogue and mixed signal processing, the incorporation of passive components, high-voltage components, micro-mechanical devices, sensors and actuators, and micro-fluidic devices enabling biological functionalities” – among others.

Here again though, 2D materials have a critical role to play. In fact, compared to the application of 2D materials to ‘more Moore’ applications, we are already seeing commercial applications of 2D materials in More than Moore use cases.

These are in Back End of Line (BEOL) applications – where 2D materials are added to the semiconductor wafer to add special functions like sensing, photonic switching, or advanced interconnect where multiple devices are stacked or linked together.

Indeed, sensors represent a key area for development because by their nature, sensors tend to be produced in foundries which have already transitioned to added BEOL technologies such as MEMS and have processes that easily accommodate planarized 2D layers.

These use cases are a crucial proving ground for 2D materials. ANL is already working with partners to deliver graphene for these BEOL applications. Our manufacturing techniques have been designed to be completely compatible with existing production lines and will support graphene ‘stacking’.

Without doubt the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers like Intel and TSMC are very keen to understand the manufacturing implications of 2D materials. For manufacturers like Applied Nanolayers the key now is demonstrating how 2D materials can be seamlessly integrated with the high demands of existing semiconductor supply chains and production lines and proving that these materials can fulfil their MtM potential.