Angstrom is a unit of measurement that is most commonly used for extremely small particles or atoms in the fields of physics and chemistry.
However, nanometres are almost too big for new electronic components, and in the not-so-distant future angstrom may be used to measure the size of semiconductors.
It could happen soon
Some large firms have already announced their future plans to move to angstrom within the next decade, which is a huge step in terms of technological advancement.
The most advanced components at the moment are already below 10nm in size, with an average chip being around 14nm. Seeing as 1nm is equal to 10Å it is the logical next step to move to the angstrom.
The size of an atom
The unit (Å) is used to measure atoms, and ionic radius. 1Å is roughly equal to the diameter of one atom. There are certain elements, namely chlorine, sulfur and phosphorus, that have a covalent radius of 1Å, and hydrogen’s size is approximately 0.5Å.
As such, angstrom is mostly used in solid-state physics, chemistry and crystallography.
The origin of the Angstrom
The name of the unit came courtesy of Anders Jonas Ångström, who used the measurement in 1868 to chart the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation in sunlight.
Using this new unit meant that the wavelengths of light could be measured without the decimals or fractions, and the chart was used by people in the fields of solar physics and atomic spectroscopy after its creation.
Will silicon survive?
It’s been quite a while since Moore’s Law was accurate. The methodology worked on the theory that every two years the number of transistors in an integrated circuit (IC) would double, and the manufacturing and consumer cost would decrease. Despite this principle being relatively accurate in 1965, it does not take into account the shrinking size of electronic components.
Silicon, the material used for most semiconductors, has an atomic size of approximately 2nm (20Å) and current transistors are around 14nm. Even as some firms promise to increase the capabilities of silicon semiconductors, you have to wonder if the material will soon need a successor.
Graphene, silicon carbide and gallium nitride have all been thrown into the ring as potential replacements for silicon, but none are developed enough at this stage for production to be widespread. That said, all three of these and several others have received research and development funding in recent years.
How it all measures up
The conversion of nanometres to angstrom may not seem noteworthy in itself, but the change and advancement it signals is phenomenal. It’s exciting to think about what kind of technology could be developed with electronics this size. So, let’s size up the angstrom era and see what the future holds.