IIT Bombay Nanofabrication Facility: Key to the Future

About two years ago, we were asked to contribute a chapter to the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) ‘Vision-2035’ document that TIFAC (Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council under the Department of Science and Technology) was going to come out with – crystal-gazing twenty years into the future to predict the shape and impact of ICT then, with special emphasis on India. Our chapter, in particular, was to forecast the trajectory of solid-state technology. After several iterations, we decided that the best way to present this was as a vision, of how ICT would enable essential aspects of Indian lives, and then link that to the role that solid-state technology would have to play therein.

Now, as we get ready to kick off a new website for IITBNF (IIT Bombay Nanofabrication Facility), we thought that the inaugural blog entry could reference that vision by way of defining the broad collective aspiration of the IITBNF member community. So, here it is…

We envision transformative impact of future advances in solid-state technology on India and its people. At the center of this vision is our core idea of empowerment. The vision is such:

A child in a remote village will have access to information and learning tools at the same extent as in a contemporary smart city. These would be the means of cultivating the minds of the future Indian citizenry.

To this end, we imagine that every child in every village will have access to world-class education, in ‘virtual reality’ classrooms enabled by the technological capability to collect, process, and transmit enormous amounts of interface and sensor data – all in real time, and with unbelievable energy-efficiency. The same technologies would enable highly interactive access to best-in-class healthcare consultation, and possibly remote treatment, to every Indian. They would also enable Indian farmers to get real-time agricultural inputs, e.g. irrigation quantity and timing, based on extensive and accurate sensor network data on soil and environmental parameters. All this would be powered by making every village in India energy-surplus – by locally generating and using energy with utmost efficiency (and cleanliness, i.e. with minimal environmental impact). Thus, we envisage that by 2035, solid-state technology will be instrumental in providing what we would call today a ‘first-world quality of life’ to all Indians, rural and urban. There are, of course, significant challenges to overcome before we reach there. We fully expect that these will be successfully overcome.

To what we had written then, we add our hope now that IITBNF will play a substantial role in surmounting some of these challenges by coming out with societally-relevant innovations in solid-state technology. In what follows, we zoom in from ICT in general to solid-state technology in particular – its past, present and (predicted) future evolution, as we had outlined it in the Vision-2035 document.

ICT has been driven by rapid developments in solid-state (or semiconductor) device technology – captured, in the context of information processing (logic devices), by the iconic Moore’s Law. This broad area has also driven development in the critical field of energy – specifically in solar photovoltaics for generation and batteries for storage. Solid-state devices have found applications in various fields like computing, communication, sensing and actuating, human-interfacing and energy conversion.

The present ICT revolution started as a convergence of computing and communication, combined with elementary human-interfacing, in the form of networked computers. Today’s tablet computers and smartphones incorporate, in addition, hitherto unimaginable amounts of sensing (proximity, acceleration, ambient lighting, sound…) and advanced human-interfacing (voice commands and readout, proximity-based display, elementary haptics). As such, they presage the coming era of total convergence.

Over the next twenty years, we envisage that humans will design around themselves real and virtual ‘intelligent environments’; that ICT will be built into every element of such built environments; and that it will feature seamless integration of computing, communication, sensing/actuation, human-interfacing and energy conversion devices. These ubiquitous and interconnected sensors, actuators, displays and interface devices will naturally generate huge amounts of data to be processed and communicated. For the sake of sustainability, such integration would need to be performed with utmost energy efficiency and environment neutrality.

As is probably known to most of you, R&D at IITBNF encompasses nearly all areas of solid-state device technology. We invite students and faculty (at IIT Bombay and elsewhere), members of industry and government, to partner with us in the journey of discovery that lies ahead of us.

In the coming months and years, members of the IITBNF community will use this blog to reach out to you with thoughts, opinions, sorrows and joys. We look forward to your continued feedback.

About the Authors:

Swaroop Ganguly is an Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT-Bombay and an active member of the IITBNF community. His research interests revolve around the physics of nanoelectronic devices and he likes to teach physics to electrical engineering students. He spends too much time on issues pertaining to the IITB Nanofabrication Facility, and too little time on reading, traveling, sports and movies.

Udayan Ganguly is an Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT-Bombay and an active member of the IITBNF community. Apart from his research interests, Prof. Udayan Ganguly is keenly interested in the process of understanding & developing the Ph. D. program and culture. He has written a “Roadmap to a Ph.D.- A Desiderata” that presents the critical processes towards the development of a researcher and a Ph. D. thesis.