L. Pierre de Rochemont, Founder & GM
Every once in a while, an innovative technology becomes disruptive to the point where it impacts every aspect of industry.
Today, similar attention is justly warranted for Frontier NanoSystems, a nanotech company poised to “restructure” the $1.74 trillion microelectronics segment.
Before unveiling its potentially path-breaking solution, a quick history lesson is in order.
Prior to 1995, electronics manufacturers enjoyed historical growth of 7.1 percent. The silicon chip established enormous market value by shrinking a transistor element from a vacuum tube to microscopic dimensions. This achievement integrated all the active circuit elements by fabricating them in large numbers as a single part. Chips enabled higher system value (improved functionality and greater reliability) to be delivered to end-users in a smaller, more practical system manufactured with streamlined production processes. This intrinsic economic value propelled semiconductor component growth at a 17.5 percent annual rate.
These conflicting growth rates, 17.5 percent for semiconductor components and 7.1 percent for end-user systems, ultimately crashed the semiconductor market as component growth rates eventually aligned with lower growth in end-user value.
In 1995, chips encountered their maximum economic potential, grabbing an average of 20¢ of every $1 end-users spent on systems. Electronic markets began to stagnate relative to end-user performance and investor ROIs. Fully integrated systems that miniaturized all components and streamlined the production of the entire system could enable market growth to capture 45¢-55¢ of every $1 spent on microelectronics. The overemphasis placed on transistor integration held microelectronics back. Today’s electronics market is 65 percent below its historic trajectory──$2.3tn is now lost in annual economic value because products weren’t designed to grow end-user value at 7.1 percent over the last 25 years.
By 2005, this limitation caught up with the industry on a performance level by compromising system speed and power consumption. Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in miniaturizing transistors (Moore’s Law), higher-speed chips mounted on a printed circuit board had their clock speeds throttled down to 2.5 GHz.
Why? The commodity materials within the printed circuit board and passive circuitry (resistors, capacitors, inductors) distort the higher frequency signal components needed to shape the high-speed digital pulse. Marginal performance gains were achieved by assembling chips in a stack, but the absence of sound passive circuit technologies continued to create performance and manufacturing bottlenecks.
ENTER BIG NANO
Finally, there is a concrete solution to this longstanding problem.
The solution was born after Frontier NanoSystems recognized the commoditizing performance bottlenecks were due to inadequate passive circuitry (printed circuit boards and components). The company sought to do for the full system (passive and active circuitry) what the silicon chip did for transistor elements. It focused on developing processes that enabled passive circuits to be integrated with transistors on semiconductor. To achieve this, Frontier NanoSystems needed to develop a new phase of matter that eliminated performance variability from passive components. This eliminates the need for signal distorting printed circuit boards. Their “quantum solution” restricts Big Nano’s internal signal response mechanisms to the orbital clouds of the atoms that comprise it. Atomic orbitals electromagnetically respond instantaneously, which prevents the signal distortion that holds system clock speeds well below the intrinsic speeds of modern chips.
Frontier NanoSystems’ technologies aimed to remove bottlenecks that stalled industry growth and investor ROIs to ignite the final phase of the microelectronics revolution, extending the value of integrated active circuits to a “fully integrated system” manufactured as a single, highly-reliable part. By forming passive circuitry at the wafer scale through its proprietary Big Nano electroceramic, Frontier NanoSystems’ solutions liberate the microelectronics industry “from a state of arrested development” stifling growth for over two decades.
Big Nano materials control microstructures (composition and grain size) at the nanoscale. This endows physically large materials with exotic quantum scale properties that were previously only attainable in materials confined to the volume of a nanoparticle, even though the material itself can have arbitrarily large physical dimension. “Big Nano allows system microelectronics that will not distort the signaling pulse. In other words, we can theoretically run distortion-free signals through our materials at ultra-fast speeds,” says L. Pierre de Rochemont, the founder and GM of Frontier NanoSystems.
The company was recently granted a U.S. patent on system/ subsystem modules that optimally operate at the intrinsic clock speeds of the chips inside it. International search authorities are opining these claims will extend to global digital communications networks.
OVERCOMING REJECTIONS AND NAYSAYERS
It is undeniable that Frontier NanoSystems owns first-of-its-kind technology that eliminates logistical inefficiencies associated with discrete passive circuit assemblies and the performance limitations imposed by printed circuit boards. However, the journey—taken by de Rochemont and his team—to securing intellectual properties (IP) has been anything but easy.
Back in 2005, de Rochemont developed an economic analysis that addressed issues hampering wireless microelectronics. It predicted handset manufacturers would be insolvent by 2009/2010. de Rochemont developed the reputation of a “fear monger,” but didn’t throw in the towel. “Since I wanted to create products that do not depend on subsidies (from government or other agencies), VCs were not willing to invest in my ideas,” reveals de Rochemont, before citing the excessive reliance on subsidies as the cause for the downturn in the microelectronics industry and the shaky global economy.
His analysis revealed supply chain complexities associated with circuit board assemblies were the industry’s major cost / performance constraint and that the whole industrial system had to change. These observations gave birth to Big Nano. Big Nano was specifically designed to achieve the critical performance tolerances needed to accomplish the last step of microelectronic integration and do for the entire system what the chip succeeded in doing for its transistor elements.
JUST GETTING STARTED…
As the world returns to a financial system without subsidies, Frontier NanoSystems is in prime position to leave its imprint. de Rochemont is quick to note that the blooming digital economy still banks on massive subsidies for its growth, a trend that will cease to exist in the near future. Against this backdrop, Frontier NanoSystems believes Big Nano microelectronics will compress supply chains, enhance end-user performance, and improve operational efficiencies—creating profitable system pricing without subsidies.
In the coming years, Frontier NanoSystems expects to shake up every aspect of manufacturing within the microelectronics industry—be it RFID, network computing, satellites, optical and wireless transceivers, mobile devices, or computers. “Imagine a world where a computer no longer has a printed circuit board. That is what we facilitate,” stresses de Rochemont.
Data centers consume hundreds of megawatts of electricity. Through Big Nano technology, Frontier NanoSystems plans to shrink a data center’s size from a large football field to a local bank branch, allowing businesses to install data centers within communities without disrupting the local power grid.