Why has the acceptance of Atomically Precise Manufacturing taken so long? Despite evidence for the utility of APM, the resources dedicated to it are incredibly small. However, things are changing:
– Solid state quantum technology needs APM
Semiconductor lithography does not work well with quantum technology, it introduces extremely large errors related to tunneling rates. Newer Hydrogen Depassivation Lithography has much greater accuracy and lower energy level variation, but we are still not there yet.
– International competition of quantum technology
The US only produces about 12% of the worlds integrated circuits. There is more funding now than ever before to improve technological capacity of the US and put it on par with other countries.
– The looming crisis in technology advancement
Moore’s law is running up against a wall. We are running out of room at the bottom and will need to look elsewhere than miniaturization to improve technology.
John proposes a digital approach to manufacturing to achieve APM, first at the nano scale then scaling up. Going digital means mapping chemical bonds to a spatial address grid to control molecular structure. Litho, deposition, etching, CMP all treat matter as if it infinitely divisible (analog methods). Importantly, digital fabrication will allow for error checking and greater tolerance.
We can borrow processes from digital IT. When sending packets over a noisy connection, validation bits are used to make sure the incoming information is correct. There are many examples of digital atomic precision among Zyvex and other organizations.
While moore’s law is running out, it can be reflected at atomic scale to represent atomically precise manufacturing at different scales. As we run through atoms to nano, nano to micro, and micro to millimeter, manufacturing will climb up logarithmically through size scales in a similar manner as atomic precision has gotten smaller.
Zyvex is focusing on hydrogen depassivation lithography, which is much more precise than conventional E-beam lithography. Using a digital approach, HDL removes specific hydrogen atoms which allows them to deposit layers of material with atomic level precision. Zyvex plans to scale up using MEMS Scanning Tunneling Microscopy.