Can Nanotechnology Dramatically Affect the Architecture of Future Communications Networks

Cherry A. Murray, Lucent Technologies

We live in an era of astounding technological transformation — the Information Revolution — that is as profound as the two great technological revolutions of the past — the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. All around us are now-familiar technologies whose very existence would have seemed extraordinary just a generation ago, such as cellular telephones, the optical fiber telecommunications backbone, the Internet, and the World Wide Web. All of the underlying technologies of the Information Age are experiencing exponential growth in functionality due to decreasing size and cost of physical components — similar to Moore's Law in silicon-integrated electronics technology. In the next decade, the size scale of many communications and computing devices — such as individual transistors — is predicted to decrease to the dimension of nanometers; where fundamental limits may slow down, single device functionality will increase. Before these fundamental limits are even attained, however, we must address the difficult assembly and interconnection problems with a network of millions of small devices tied together to provide the increased functionality at lower cost. If the interconnection problem is solved and if the cost of physical elements is dramatically reduced, the architectures of future communications networks — and the Internet itself — can be dramatically changed. In order for this to happen, however, we must have a breakthrough in our ability to deal with the statistical nature of devices in the simulation and design of complex networks on several levels.

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