An article discusses anticipated advances in the design of increasingly capable integrated circuits containing ever smaller electronic devices. The article emphasizes the emergence of technology computer-aided design (TCAD) — a discipline in which computer-aided design is combined with computational simulation (based on underlying physics) of the operation and fabrication of devices. The article describes challenges that must be met to expand the role of TCAD as a means of overcoming obstacles to further miniaturization and of shortening integrated-circuit-development cycles. One challenge is to develop better mathematical models of the device physics and fabrication processes to enable the more accurate simulation of what happens as circuit features shrink toward molecular dimensions; meeting this challenge will likely involve development of capabilities for "virtual fabrication," in which all aspects of production processes and devices produced could be computationally simulated. Another challenge is to develop new, generally applicable TCAD software with the flexibility and functionality needed to perform increasingly complex and accurate computations. A third challenge is to obtain the enormous computational power needed for advanced TCAD by setting up an Internet-based distributed-computing grid, which would utilize thousands or even millions of computers while they were idle.
This work was done by Bryan A. Biegel of MRJ Technology Solutions, Inc., for Ames Research Center. To obtain a copy of the article, "The Future of Electronic Device Design," access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.nasatech.com/tsp under the Electronics & Computers category.