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From secure data exchange to managing EoL parts, the applications are numerous. 

In last month’s discussion of how electronics companies first began to use Blockchain technology to automate and simplify “high-friction” multiparty processes, we noted many of the earliest projects tended to focus on the relationship between a single “sponsor” company and its partners. In other cases, companies worked together as a consortium to solve a common problem. Quickly, however, electronics companies began to leverage applications originally developed for other industries, especially to leverage the “track and trace” capability originally developed for the food industry.

Basing a new blockchain network on functionality that has been developed and implemented for another network1, even in a completely different industry, lowers the cost of entry and simplifies the process of setting up that new network. That has turned out to be very important, since it also makes it easier to create a valid business case for the application.

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Updates in silicon and electronics technology.

Ed.: This is a special feature courtesy of Binghamton University.

Integrated photonic circuits demonstrate ultralow loss. EPFL researchers have developed a technology that produces silicon nitride integrated photonic circuits with low optical losses and small footprints. Silicon nitride has been a material of choice for applications where low loss is critical, such as narrow-linewidth lasers, photonic delay lines, and those in nonlinear photonics. The team combined nanofabrication and material science based on the photonic Damascene process developed at EPFL. With this process, the team made integrated circuits of optical losses of 1dB/m, a record value for any nonlinear integrated photonic material. That low loss considerably reduces the power budget for building chip-scale optical frequency combs used in applications that include coherent optical transceivers, low-noise microwave synthesizers, lidar, neuromorphic computing and optical atomic clocks. (IEEC file #12282, Photonics Media, 5/6/21)

Samsung develops advanced chip packaging tech. Samsung Electronics has developed an advanced chip packaging technology for high-performance applications. Its next-generation 2.5D packaging technology, Interposer-Cube4 (I-Cube4), is expected to be widely used in areas like high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, 5G, cloud and data centers with enhanced communication and power efficiency between logic and memory chips. I-Cube is heterogeneous integration technology that horizontally places one or more logic dies, such as CPU and GPU, and several high bandwidth memory dies on a paper-thin silicon interposer. (IEEC file #12285, Science Daily, 5/6/21)

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The largest circuit board fabricators are pulling away from the rest of the market. 

This is the 25th NTI-100 report. The author cannot believe he has done NTI-100 such a long time. As years go by, it becomes more difficult to accurately record revenue data of privately owned PCB fabricators, and there are many. As a result, the data of about one-fifth of the top PCB companies are questionable. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see the revenue trend.

As usual, data compiled by trade organizations and with the assistance of many of the author’s friends around the globe were vital to completing this report. He expresses his gratitude to all who helped. Any errors are strictly his responsibility.

The 2020 average exchange rate conversion of revenue from local currencies to the US dollar was made using the exchange rates listed in TABLE 1. Since various organizations and individuals seem to use slightly different rates, the results may differ but only slightly.

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Mitigating skin effect’s impact on high-speed signals. 

I’ve spent much of the past seven years dealing with insertion loss as it relates to PCB dielectrics, as well as losses due to copper roughness. During that period, there’s been comparatively little discussion regarding “skin effect,” a significant contributor to signal attenuation that in my view gets less attention than it should. While discussing the phenomenon in-depth, we’ll also discuss what, if anything, can be done to mitigate its impact on high-speed signals.

While writing this article, I’ve been thinking of places that skin appears in nature and pop culture. When I started writing, I flipped on Skinwalker Ranch on the History Channel for the first time as background noise, and they were talking about magnetic fields, current flow, and Tesla coils.

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Updates in silicon and electronics technology.

Ed.: This is a special feature courtesy of Binghamton University.

IBM unveils world’s first 2nm chip technology. SIBM announced a breakthrough in semiconductor design and process with the development of the world’s first chip announced with 2nm nanosheet technology. The new design is projected to achieve 45% higher performance and 75% lower energy use than today’s 7nm chips. IBM said this new frontier in chip technology will accelerate advancements in AI, 5G and 6G, edge computing, autonomous systems, space exploration, and quantum computing. The technology would likely not be in high volume production until 2024. (IEEC file #12281, Semiconductor Digest, 4/27/21)

ieecjuly 2021 fig1

“Egg carton” quantum dot array could lead to ultralow power devices. University of Michigan researchers have developed a new approach by sending and receiving information with single photons of light using a “quantum egg carton” that captures and releases photons, supporting “excited” quantum states while it possesses the extra energy. Their experiment demonstrated the effect known as nonlinearity to modify and detect extremely weak light signals. This takes advantage of distinct changes to a quantum system to advance next-generation computing. As silicon-electronics-based information technology becomes increasingly throttled by heating and energy consumption, nonlinear optics is a potential solution. (IEEC file #12154, Science Daily, 3/4/21)

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Three options for leveraging the secure digital ledger. 

In last month’s introduction to blockchain technology,1 we noted how the technology offers a way to automate and simplify multiparty processes that are time-consuming, resource-intense, and therefore costly. We often summarize this sort of process as “high-friction.” But pioneers in applying blockchain to improve multiparty processes learned early that it wasn’t enough to find a process that was slow or frustrating. There needed to be a quantifiable performance (often financial) benefit as well. This wasn’t always easy to establish. Unlike applying automation to improve internal processes, the “friction” in multiparty processes occurs outside an organization. As a result, the costs and performance issues caused by that friction may not be captured well enough inside the organization to understand its true impact.

Perhaps it’s understandable, then, that the most successful early blockchain applications were often driven by companies large and sophisticated enough to not only recognize, but quantify, the opportunities and to have enough influence with their partner companies that those partners were willing to collaborate on a solution. Indeed, a recent article in MIT Sloan Management Review2 states, “The biggest challenge to companies creating blockchain apps isn’t the technology – it’s successfully collaborating with ecosystem partners.”

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