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The future of electronics is likely to encompass new applications including biotechnology and exploit new forms of optics and photonics as well as electronic based technologies, according to scientists meeting at the Royal Society today.

Moore’s law, which states that the number of transistors on a chip doubles approximately every 18-20 months, has helped drive technological development, since it was first described in 1965, to produce faster, smaller and cheaper microelectronics.

“However, what Gordon Moore, founder of Intel and discoverer of his eponymous law, could never have foreseen is that one day someone would be able to sequence his entire genome on a single integrated circuit,” said Professor David Cumming, one of the organisers of the Royal Society discussion meeting taking place this week.

“Today, we find ourselves at an enormously exciting point in the evolution of electronics technologies.”

Two branches of this evolution will be discussed over the next few days: One being the increasing number of non-traditional electronics applications that are emerging, such as biotechnology. And the other is the development of non-electronic technologies such as bioelectronics, optics and photonics, which will be essential to continuation of the rapid exponential development of integrated circuit engineering.

CMOS

It is hoped that this research could soon lead to the production of low-cost, low-energy optoelectronics, which would dramatically improve home entertainment technologies such as video streaming.

The scientists will discuss recent research into microelectronic systems that are engineered to observe the activities of biomolecules including enzymes, membrane proteins, and DNA. It is hoped that revolutionary developments will one day enable personalised health checks and disease diagnoses to be made on mobile devices.

One of the scientists presenting his work at the Royal Society today, Professor Rahul Sarpeshkar, MIT, USA, said:

“The fundamental limits of semiconductor computation naturally lead one to consider computing directly with molecules as biological cells do. Fortunately, the deep connections between chemistry and electronics reveal that analog computation in electronics can provide mechanisms for architecting analog circuits in cells, and cells can in turn provide inspiration for highly energy-efficient, fault-tolerant circuits in electronics.”

The meeting is being chaired by Professors David Cumming and Douglas Paul from the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre and the School of Engineering at the University of Glasgow and Professor Steve Furber from the University of Manchester.

eFuture: Beyond Moore's Law Workshop Page at the Royal Society