BREAKING: MITRE Engenuity Publishes their Blueprint for a Domestic Semiconductor Industry. Read the Paper.
The Role of Start-Ups in the Semiconductor Ecosystem
Aired: February 9, 2023
In this episode of Circuit Talk: Funders and Founders, John Cole is joined by Rob Snowberger and Rahul Sen, CEO and CTO of Nantero. Nantero, along with being an active member of The Semiconductor Alliance, is a start-up ingeniously disrupting the manufacturing ecosystem. With humble beginnings as an idea formed in class at Harvard to being selected by the Japanese government for their National Green Data Center, Nantero has unique insight into the critical role of start-ups in the semiconductor ecosystem.
0:09 | John Cole
Welcome to Circuit Talk: Funders and Founders. I'm John Cole, Senior Manager on the semiconductor team at MITRE Engenuity. We are a nonprofit dedicated to solving problems for a safer world. Our semiconductor team is hard at work meeting the nation's challenges around semiconductor breakthrough technologies and the CHIPS Act. Circuit Talk: Funders and Founders as part of MITRE's Circuit Talk podcast and video series elevates the revolutionary disruptive work being done by semiconductor entrepreneurs and investors. This is an exciting time to be working with semiconductor startups. The nation is waking up to just how critical they are to our national and economic security. I'm joined today on Circuit Talk: Funders and Founders by Dr. Raul Sen and Mr. Rob Snowberger. Dr. Sen is a materials engineer who's been working in the semiconductor industry for over 20 years. Mr. Snowberger is CEO of Nantero, and has a background in national security, finance and building startups around deep technologies. They're both executives at Nantero a startup founded in 2001, that was developed the development N-RAM, which is an ultra high density ultra fast, ultra low power memory based on carbon nanotubes. Nantero has been a very active member of the Semiconductor Alliance and has helped our team at MITRE Engenuity oriented cells around semiconductor startups and the startup world. And it's contributed a lot to our white papers and our request for information responses. So it's really fun to have you all on the show and to talk about Nantero. So
1:39 | Rob Snowberger
it's an honor to be here. Thanks. Well, you
1:41 | John Cole
all have had quite a journey starting near in tears are quite a journey starting up. Can you tell me about you know, how you got to this point and and what it's been like?
1:51 | Rob Snowberger
Yeah, no, absolutely. Thank thank you for the opportunity. As you mentioned, you know, Nantero is the world leader in Carbon Nanotube technology. And what does that mean that that effectively means that we are pioneers of a new material in the fab process in the CMOS process. And while while there are some other companies, especially large companies who have programs or have had programs, Nantero, as you mentioned, has been at this for 20 years, and we've been doing it as a startup or an SMB small and medium business. There's not exactly clear cut category quite yet. But in any event, you know, we are a we are a small company based out of Woburn, Massachusetts, right outside of Boston. We also have a facility in Sunnyvale, California, Silicon Valley. And we got started in 2001, out of Harvard, graduate school programming for chemistry, where our carbon nanotube based memory cell was created by our co founder Dr. Tom raucous and, and so from there, the idea was, just like you said, is that we had a technology with a new material, that could be as quick and as high performance as DRAM, but yet is non volatile, meaning we could fit the bill for the fast paced memory that's required for direct processing computations. But we also could be non volatile and save a whole bunch of power in your cell phone and your laptop, et cetera. And so over 20 years, you have to think, Okay, well, what is that time taken? First of all, you know, these technologies take a long time to progress. You know, you have DRAM, which was invented in 1966, that that is our, our largest competitor, if you will, but it's also $100 billion, your global market. So it's not exactly a competitor, it is the status quo. And we are trying to figure out a way to offer a better solution. So, you know, as a new materials company, the first step in that process is hey, can I get this material into a CMOS fab? Will anybody who has these $50 million 100 million dollar machines, let me touch it with this new material, considering how important contamination issues are. And so what what our CTO Dr. Sen, who joins us today and what our team has perfected really is the eighth and aqueous solution that can go into a spin coder and can coat perfectly aligned. Well, he wrote will allow me to say perfectly aligned engineers will not allow that. But for my chair, they're pretty aligned and, and so anyway, we can coat a 12 inch wafer in a commercial size. And so when you're in this portion of the business, you have to start there and that's where we started in Wilbur and lowborn is an ISO 9001 facility chemical facility. From there once you've created the the chemistry and the material, you get your first shot at a fab. You know, our first major engagement the fad was with LSI logic and moving from there, we've gone into higher commercially focused fabs and you can kind of see behind me little bit about our progression we you know, we have a small kind of researchy wafer there, then you got an eight inch wafer, and then finally 12 inch. And so that, you know, when you're doing a chemistry that spreads out over a wafer, it's really important that you know, that material spreads out evenly across. And so all of that is a part of the progression now, you know, cyclical industry, fabs are open, fabs have availability, fabs are shut fabs say nope, no way I could make more money printing out, you know, status quo chips, and not really looking to do anything new. So, over the next, let's say, the first seven years, were developing the chemical process. There, the balance of that time was in various fab engagements advancing the technology. And we're really proud of where we are, we know that the market is as expected, the latest commercial product was announced for 2019 out of Fujitsu. And we're still working on that this is actually a wafer from that project that we're still still working on. But we're really proud of where we are because we have reached some significant milestones, including five sigma performance at a million cycles, which, you know, when it comes to not only inventing a new technology that works, and you think that's great, you got to make it work to the gigabit scale. And all of those things have to be working, all those zeros and ones have to be clicking, or else you have defective chips. And and you're never going to be cost competitive with DRAM. So we are still fighting that fight. And we're still excited about the technology and where it is. And I think lastly, that you know, over the 20 year period of that I'll say in terms of where we stand now is, and this is natural, and this is why the chips act exists. And why we're very excited to be a part of MITRE is when you get to a certain level of success in this business. And as a startup, you start to get calls and start to get interest from overseas. And we're very proud to be a partner with many great Japanese companies. And the Japanese government has decided to focus on our carbon nanotube memory and RAM as as the only memory selected for their national green data center project where they looked at all the other memories out there. And they said, and RAM and Carbon Nanotube memory is the one that can achieve extreme energy reduction and data farms. And so we're going to put our research money behind that technology. That's great. And we're really excited and proud to be a part of it. But of course, the sticky part business wise is we're a US company, that's a Japanese national project with Japanese companies. So we're essentially a supporting role for technology that we invented, and that we have created. The fact that the chips act exists and the fact that we are part of it. And so vocal is because I think we have a very unique story, we can tell what happens when a startup that's VC funded sends $30 million to specific fab and gets terrible wafers back and you say what do we do now? You know, so those kinds of things happen to startups in this business. And it's really important for the taxpayers to get what they invested in to have companies like us that can can kind of help mitre and commerce and NIST avoid those pitfalls as you guys make policy and execute. So yeah, good question.
8:13 | John Cole
Yeah, that's a great, that's sort of a great entree because you touch on so many of the challenges that startups are facing right from the capital intensity to the just the long periods and the and the high level of long periods of development, and then the high level of sort of perfection that you have to achieve to even be able to consider entering the market. Right and interesting, you also touched on sort of just the the most recent sort of wave that's kind of coming over the industry a focus on sustainability, both from a production point of view, but also from the consumer use and power consumption, everything else, it's just so many angles to attack here. But when you think about some of those, those, those wafers that came back, what was sort of the most challenging part about getting CNT based memory to work and the six years that you've been able to bring it to?
8:58 | Rahul Sen
Yes, that is, that was our biggest challenge. And I, I started Nantero in 2003, like, like a few years after it was founded. And at that time, when we were trying to engage with a fab and they basically said, don't bring your dirty carbon nanotubes anywhere near. Yeah, so that was our biggest challenge to get the materials to prove the fabs basically, that our material we can make the material that is has the right kind of beauty that they expect and the right kind of uniformity, and it will not de laminate and cause problems to the million multimillion dollar tools. So those are the kind of initial challenges we had to face with the fact that is basically any fab when they want to introduce a new material, they'll do something called a content image contamination check, which is basically run several wafers first, show them the data that it has the right specs and then run several wafers. through the different processes to make sure there are no issues. And that is just the technical piece. But on the business side also, we have always kind of fighting this problem of access to the fabs. Because if there is a strong demand for running regular chips, they would rather do that, then try to install in development program. Yeah. So and that challenge became very accurate during the COVID. And we are still facing the challenge and, and with the chipset funding, if we can get more fabs established in the US, that will be required to actually install development processes for developing new technologies that really good.
10:48 | John Cole
So if I were to say that just to outline the gauntlet, if you can get the technology to work, and then you can get the pile of money you need to get in, and then you can reassure them about contamination, and then you can also find a very precious sort of slot in their production schedule, then you might get a chance that sort of proving that you can operate, you know, at the full production or at full yield, right, yeah. So
11:12 | Rahul Sen
we are at a stage where you are beyond trying to prove our technology works, because we have worked with many companies for several years, like Rob mentioned, Fujitsu and several others we have worked with in the past. So we are we have kind of beyond the initial stage. Now we are at a stage where we have to run several wafers to basically show yield and things like that, which is actually tough, because then the five has to give us enough time and wafer runs, which is what becomes a challenge,
11:48 | Rob Snowberger
Right. I'd like to add one thing to your list, when you said, let me get this right, you guys, this, this and this, then if you find a tiny slot in their production schedule, you're missing, you're missing one very important one, which is Oh, and by the way, the owner of that fab, has a large market share in the technology you're trying to disrupt. So you're basically asking for a spot in their fab to make your technology because you want to compete with their products. I mean, it's that's, and that is why we are in these meetings. And you know, ask, we're not a large company. So we're asking a lot of our people doing real r&d work, to put on several hats and join these meetings. But it's really important because at the end of the day, we know, if these resources are spent and invested correctly, that you have companies like us that maybe just maybe the next Nantero doesn't have to be chemical materials engineer, designer of CMOS wafers, you know, paying for the last opportunity cost of a bunch of DRAM wafers, to get ourselves in fab, you know, all these things that make our life extremely expensive. You know, even just even just licensing CAD software for the for a chip design is very expensive. And we have to do all that if we want to be in this business. So it's anyway, that was an important one, I thought.
13:07 | John Cole
So I'll pivot from that Rob, like, if let's say that you're able to meet the entire gauntlet, right? What is success of Nantero mean for just sort of the future of semiconductors, right? Like, how does that boil down for the consumer or for the product maker, if
13:21 | Rob Snowberger
you will, yeah. So you know, James harrows business model, and this is what everyone, I would say, 99%. Or let's say 90% of people will look at what we're doing. And they'll say the smartest business model is that of a licensing model, meaning we focus on creating the system of getting carbon nanotubes into fab. And we have that process buttoned up, we have the technology for and the chemical engineering buttoned up. And we can go to any of these fabs or any of these big companies and say, here's the process, we will license it to you. And then they take it the next step. And they pay for 10,000 100,000 wafer runs to protect perfect the technology and get it to where it needs to be. And that was what anteros business model was forever. But what we found over the years is because the licensing is very small in terms of the market share that you need to afford a bunch of these steps, you realize that the business deal you're fighting for at the end of the tunnel isn't going to pay for the costs that you had to go into it. And that's just because that's what's been established in the marketplace as the type of royalty that would go to someone who develops a process. And so we had to flip our business model and say, Okay, we're going to have to push our first product into the market. It's got to be us. And so what that means is now instead of just creating the process, we're on the hook to figure out running 100,000 wafers of EMRAM so that we can learn enough about it to perfect it and get the product to zation level. And so, you know, I don't know if at some point in our process, one of the big companies or you know, someone with much more bandwidth, if you will than us will say Oh, Oh, here they come, they finally got to this point, now we got to start talking to them, that might be what happens. But I do know that in the licensing world, what will tend to happen is what the valley of death does to you, which is people see that it's going to cost you tons and tons of money to get to where you need to go. And they're just going to sit back and say we can, we can wait these guys out until they die. And then we can come in and pick up their IP for cheap. And, you know, if we want to dust it off the shelf someday we can. But that's how they essentially can absorb us. That's one way or the way that Nantero has gone so far anyway, with without the chips that's happening is a foreign country gets excited about the technology and building an industry in their country. And that's when they can attract the talent and the technologies that come out of you know, the US United States is top research programs, and was nursed by the top VC community in the world here in the United States. But then in that critical piece between VC funding and commercialization, that's when you know, large state back dollars can persuade or can breathe life into a company or technology just before it's ready for that last commercial step. And unfortunately, it just becomes a foreign technology before and, you know, bedrock, where the industry is now centered overseas as opposed to where it was invented. So we're still fighting, and we're still in that unique position. And we're very excited to submit our RFPs. And to participate with mitre to come up with what exactly, you know, would look best for for helping mantero Stay US company and grow here.
16:32 | John Cole
Yeah, that's great. And I think one of the big focuses of the chips act of the semiconductor alliance is to rebalance as much as we can, in the semiconductor supply chain back over to the US right, and to keep those critical technologies that are important for our economic security and our national security to keep them based in the US. Great to see you guys, you know, trying to hold on to that and keep it here, despite everything else, all the challenges to sort of do that. If we think about sort of, you know, we've touched, we kind of like danced around and touch a little bit about the global nature of semiconductors. One thing that we sort of think about here a lot at MITRE Engenuity is, is that global nature, both of technology, but also talent flow. And we're starting to talk more and more about workforce development, and how that relates to the chips act. And Dr. Sen. I know, like you and your PhD in India at the Indian Institute of Science. And then you did a postdoc in Japan at the Tokyo Metro University, I think, right? Yeah. And then you did another postdoc here in the US at UC Riverside. So all of this sort of before joining Nanto was your sort of the poster child here of the integrated global talent flow network, if you will. So and we're really fortunate to have that you ended up here in the US. But how do you, you know, when you think about your journey, how do we make sure that the US is sort of continuing to be a destination place where semiconductor talent or all the talent is sort of surrounds the semiconductor industry, whether it be everything from material science to computer science to math and physics, we continue to sort of be that destination that folks want to go to?
18:08 | Rahul Sen
Yes, yes. And I came to the US not just by chance, but because this is a place where there are opportunities for people like me, the best opportunities in the world, still, I still believe we still exist in the United States. And especially for doing cutting, cutting edge technologies, like what I was working on my experience in India, and Japan actually gave me that global outlook, which actually helps me to work with our Japanese partners and our global partners. So that is really good. My background I have, but but I've been in the US for more than 20 years, I'm a US citizen, and the kind of opportunities like a company like mantero I don't think will exist anywhere else in the world. And that that that is the that is the attraction that of us. And we have to see how we can keep that going. Especially in semiconductor industry, which is unfortunately a lot of the the processes are moving abroad. And as you if you start manifesting manufacturing things here, you will lose the edge over time. Yeah. So so this the fact that US government has realized that and in investing in the chips act, that is a really good sign. And we have to make sure that we can leverage that fully by thinking of actually, like you said, we want to do like a holistic development the industry should develop but also need to have workforce development across various fields.
19:46 | John Cole
Yeah. From kind of from the from the ground up or from almost every every position. I think,
19:53 | Rahul Sen
everybody just want every position and not just not just electrical engineers, because usually semiconductor industry get it dominated by electrical engineers, but we need material scientists like me and chemists, unit process engineers, and you also need people who know business and things like that. You need people with different skill sets all coming together
20:16 | Rob Snowberger
and grow. That's it. That's a great point, I just want to add something real quick, which is, you know, one of the challenges that that most or every semiconductor company faces is when you look at, okay, federal subsidy dollars into an industry, how many jobs will it create? That is a tough equation for this industry, because we're making teeny tiny little pieces, and you know, you make them in small places, and all that. So. So it's a challenge. However, the glimmer of hope, or the reason why I think that there needs to be a little more peeling of the onion is because when you look at what we have created with a new material, the material side does create a lot of jobs. And it's, you know, it's large chemical companies are a huge sector here in the United States as they are in Japan. And, and so we have, you know, jobs on that end, as well. So when you're looking at a CMOS fab, that's a certain part of the equation, but when you're talking about and all the legislation and the wall and miter, you guys are focusing on how do we get new materials, that is a whole separate bucket of jobs that will be created. And that is, that is an important thing to look at, then you can look at all of the different things that need to go into semiconductors, including, you know, packaging, as we know, and you have all sorts of wonderful technologies, EDA tools, all that stuff. So there's a lot of jobs that are kind of under the surface, and mantero, because we've had to be tooth to tail, we've had to do everything in the spectrum. We can't just focus on materials, we have to be materials and design and fabrication, and testing and talking to the packaging folks to make sure that you know, so we've had to do all of it. And so we see that there's a cluster in an ecosystem that bothers and I do just want to want to circle back to one thing quickly, because I want to make sure, you know, we are extremely excited about the opportunity for international cooperation. Clearly, NATO is an internationally connected company with lots of great partners overseas. And in fact, we're extremely also excited that not only is the chips act here, but also there was an initiative announced by Secretary Raimondo, and by Secretary Blinken to do in advanced semiconductor research initiative with Japan specifically. And so we're very excited about that. Because ultimately, we would love to continue working with our partners. And believe it or not, our partners are talking about, hey, we will gladly common build plants in the United States for Carbon Nanotube supply chain production, just like we have in Japan, they will do that. And so I think the fact that the the international approach, and saying, we're going to take this money to attract the talent from overseas and the companies from overseas, so long as those dollars are in the US, now I get to show up to the table with the Japanese funding that's available for us. Now I get to show up with my government who's backing some money. And we could say, Okay, now let's have a fair conversation. We're not trying to just say, oh, everything in the US, you don't want to like No, no, no, I just want a fair negotiating position. And when you have a nation state back and companies, and you have a much smaller company, that's by itself, those negotiations don't look very pretty. And so that's why I'm very excited about using that. And that's one way to take that 52 billion and make it look like 300 billion because you're making the right investments.
23:29 | John Cole
So Nantero is based out of the Boston area and what's the semiconductor seem like in in Boston? You know, you've been there for the entire time that the company, would things have gone differently, or which, you know, what, why, why not the Bay Area?
23:43 | Rahul Sen
Well, the reason it started here, because as Rob explained, the technology came out of the Harvard Graduate School, and all our co founders were from Howard University. So I think that's the reason it started in Boston area. Boston area actually used to be a hub for high tech semiconductor industry many years ago, because the route 128 area, yeah, that kind of there was a debt computers and EMC and many big companies on this list. But that has kind of shifted to the Bay Area and Bay Area was actually really the birthplace of the semiconductor industry, as we all know, it. activity in the Boston area as well. So
24:29 | John Cole
in Valley, right, yeah, yeah, like, I gotta save for that. But you're right. I think DEC was the first VC backed company or the first like Vc as we kind of know it. Right. And that was out of out of the Boston area. So it's got a long, long, rich history there. Yeah. Yeah.
24:45 | Rahul Sen
Yeah. And Boston. I actually Boston area right now is, as everybody knows, is the hub for biotech industry. Yeah, that is actually somewhat of a challenge for us because what we do here is we run our chemical processes Have your material science and chemistry work in Boston, which means we need good chemical engineers, chemists. And to hire to attract good people. We have to basically we are competing against the big biotech giants to get good chemists and chemical engineers, which becomes a challenge for us.
25:21 | John Cole
It's interesting these other startups are taught to we are competing with say FANGs right, are competing with like the Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google right for talent, because they're, they're heavy on software. But you're actually competing with a pharma sort of for be super heavy on chemistry. Yeah. They know that's, that's always a challenge as you're a as a startup with more limited resources to attract talent. So it's interesting, and how do you go about sort of overcoming that or convincing folks to make the leap and be a part of startup land and not go off to big corporate Pharma?
26:01 | Rahul Sen
Get them excited about the technology? Yeah.
26:05 | John Cole
We change the world.
26:07 | Rob Snowberger
I think, you know, we do have a Sunnyvale, Silicon Valley office. And, you know, so the way that our company is structured is is, as Rob Lowe said, our Wilbur facility is where our chemical engineering happens. And it could be a production facility if it needed to be right now we have Japanese companies who can produce our our solution and ship it to fab for fast stability. So we can use our facility and are using it as additional r&d. But that's that's the Boston site, the Sunnyvale site is our design and test center. So effectively, our wafers go from Wilborn, to fab, wherever that may be. And then they come back to Sunnyvale, where the team tests the product, and makes changes and tweaks to the design. Was it the carbon nanotubes that were the issue this time? Was it a design problem? And that's what most memory engineers will tell you is you need to run you know, what is a row 100,000 wafers before you really know a memory. So that's that's that, you know, if you had to look at the numbers game, or you know, if you're reading like Mac Malcolm Gladwell is, you know, outliers and stuff, the magic number for getting to a functioning wafer with with memory, you know, if that's 100,000, if that's the case, I haven't I don't have that on this. But if that's the case, you know, then taro as has been about 5000, at this point. And we're a 20 year company that has had $300 million invested in the technology, about half of that was was equity, and half of that was revenue that we've made over the years. But that's where the the math equation, that's where the chips act needs to come in. That's where the resources and the phablets, you know, the phablets, come in, so that we can get to that number. And what you'll see is you'll see as, as Rahul said so perfectly, he doesn't believe that an Antero could exist in another country, like it does here. And that's because of the amazing talent that's attracted to the country, that amazing research institutions that we have to kickstart these kinds of technologies, and then the VC communities that will invest and take a risk. Now what we just have to do is we got to put the guardrails around that last that last mile, or that last 10 yards, if you're talking to the swimming pool or the last mile, if you're talking to valley of death, and get those technologies that have been fed by that system over and give them the resources they can get over the line. And once you do that, yeah, imagine if you know, when, as you mentioned, what would the world look like for you know, with carbon energy technology, we're energy efficient, Japan picked us up because we save 30% energy in a server. And that, that would plus up to a data center. So you're talking about green data centers, reducing their power consumption by 30%. And they stuck a lot of power. So that's one thing. The other thing is, is you could make the new supply chain from the ground up, meaning all the supply chain that services currency last process, you can now start it here in the US and grow it. So there's just a lot of, you know, and we're also not asking for as much nearly as much money as the big companies are and who have big plans. And that's great. And we need those guys, at the end of the day, we need the big companies to be good at what they do and to invest in these big facilities. And, and we're so excited that there's been a lot of great projects announced. But we're asking for a very small amount of, of resources from this chip sack so that we can potentially be the biggest game. So if you invest a lot into the big guys and a little into the little guys, you might find that the little guys produce the most return for taxpayer. And so we're, you know, we're certainly on board for for that for pushing that narrative because we know it's true.
John Cole | 29:42
Yeah, certainly a leapfrog technologies, as they say, right, so kind of just bound us right over where we are into a new new area in terms of power consumption, and also in terms of performance and everything else you really want around new technology. So that's that's fantastic. Well, so Rob, if there was if there was sort of Have you had a message for other innovators that are trying to bring something like this to the market in semiconductors? What would what would your message be right now?
30:10 | Rob Snowberger
Wow, man, that is that's a tough one. It wouldn't be don't do it, don't do it I, I would say this, I would say, Look, you have a lot of choices. And you know, if you're, if you're gifted enough to be smart enough to be the, you know, interested in this technology field, I would say this, there couldn't be a better time, especially if you're in the US to be focused on this industry. And I told my staff the same thing, I'd say you guys have been battling for a long time, but for the first time ever, a congress and a president and a commerce department and lots of great folks at MITRE and all over the place, are saying, Hey, we hear you, we hear that it's hard, we hear that it's near impossible to make it work. And this is something that country has been struggling with. So we've got your back here, the resources. Now let's talk about how we get it done. You now, if you're getting into this, and you want to innovate, and you're you're looking at either a job or you're looking to start a technology, you have a better chance of success now than you ever have. And also, when you look at the cool, I mean, there is of course that moral dilemma when it comes to do we really want, you know, machines that can think for themselves, whenever we talk about AI, you know, that is, that's for sure some dilemma. At the end of the day, it will be developed, it will be the technology will come. And the question is have we done it here? And have you, you know, have you materially participated in it. And so, you know, so I would say you have a better chance of success now than you ever have. And you have, you know, a country that hears you, and you have a lot of facilities being built, and you have a lot of really cool technology to come that needs lots of innovation. So it should be a fun thing, you know, the business side of it is the business side of it. And that's a challenge. But the innovation side of it is some of the cool stuff in the world who knew that I could, I could literally call Raul's university right now just say hi. You know, in India, it just, it's an amazing like, you know, it's just amazing how interconnected we are. And it's all because of the magic and the materials, and the really the the amazing, amazing science behind this stuff. But it's,
32:22 | John Cole
this is kind of a Sputnik moment for America, right? Like in the sense that, if you remember, we were kind of in a mild space race with the Russians before Sputnik. And then suddenly, we looked up and there was this satellite going over our heads, that was somebody else. And we realized the sort of longer term strategic and technical implications of what that meant. And that got us to all rally around the Apollo Project. And then suddenly, you know, being an astronaut was the possibility of being a systems engineer on rockets going to the moon was a possibility. And it really opened up a lot for young engineers, and for anybody who might be interested in that kind of space, or people that would just sort of stumble on it and be interested in that. So we're kind of seeing the same thing now in the sense that our manufacturing capabilities are down to 10%, maybe of the world, the global supply, and adversarial countries, those are rising up to 24 25% and 25% in Taiwan are vulnerable. So it's great to see kind of a unification across the aisles, and a lot of sort of focus on this, I guess, and interest in it.
33:31| Rob Snowberger
Exactly. And in a country in a country that has a very robust tech industry. But like you said, it's the fangs, right? It's, it's it, a lot of people think about coding, and a lot of people think about the software side and the applicate, the platforms, and the apps and all that, but but really the science that underlies it, is what creates connectivity. I mean, it creates better safety, it creates learning in classrooms, you know, when you have, when you have a biological pandemic, and you send kids home, they now can learn and continue to be connected with their, with their classmates and their teachers through devices that we've created when you when you look at, you know, being able to have this interview without burning tons of JP five jet fuel to get us all together in the same room to talk into a microphone. These are the things that the magic in the miracles of these little tiny devices can do. And we still have a lot to uncover, we still have a lot to explore, and, and hey, nanotubes are extremely small. So as you get into those super, super small node sizes, there's gonna be a lot of interest in nanotubes and Nantero will be right there to share what we've done with the world and, and add to this, this progress that this industry has made.
34:40 | John Cole
That's fantastic. That's exciting. So, Rahul, can you tell me just for the layman or for the for the rest of us? What are the kind of applications do you see this kind of technology going? How else can carbon nanotubes be used and what other changes can they make outside of you know, memory? Sounds like a fascinating sort of application, but what else are you thinking about doing after that
34:59 | Rahul Sen
you Just staying within the electronics semiconductor space, carbon nanotubes actually they have unique electronic properties. So, they can be metallic or semiconducting. Yeah, depending on the how the carbon atoms are rolled up, and for the memory application, we don't need to separate them out there can be a mix because we are using an electromechanical property of the tubes, but if we can separate the semiconducting carbon out of out, then you can make transistors out of those, and those can be really very high speed transistors. So they are ballistics, and that is something that many companies have been looking at and also something Nanto is interested in because our materials technology platform that we have was developed for memory can be applied with of course, there's some development work that still needs to be done, but can be applied to the transistors, because we are the only company that has introduced nanotubes in the fab. So that that is the two things. The other thing is that if you just take the metallic nanotubes out now okay semiconductor not use or field of a transistor, now take the metallic nanotubes, they are again highly, they have very high current current current tank capacity. So they can be used for for interconnects like replacing copper, and things like that. So,
36:27 | John Cole
so packaging play, eventually go to processing and then you go to packaging, and then
36:33 | Rahul Sen
yeah, they also nanotubes also have very high thermal conductivity. So they can be used for thermal management at the chip level. So those are the kinds of semiconductor space, those are the application they can think of now thinking a little bit further out nanotubes, because they're just made of carbon, they're very flexible, inherently flexible. So they can be used in flexible electronics, where you can make your memory and your transistor everything, everything on flexible substrates and you can use them for flexible electronics, going beyond the and there are other applications also people are looking at our sensors, because nanotubes are very sensitive, the electronic properties are not very sensitive to kind of what kind of gases or molecules are adsorbed on them. So they can be very, very sensitive sensors, people are looking into sensors, people are also looking into sensors, you can have chemical sensors, or you can have like a piece of sensors or mechanical sensors, different kinds of sensors you can make with nanotubes. Moving out of the electronics field, carbon nanotubes today are being used in lithium ion batteries to enhance the conductivity of the cathode materials. The cathode materials in lithium ion batteries are typically oxides that have that are good for intercalating lithium, but not very good for transporting the electrons. So people traditionally added carbon black, as an additive to improve the conductivity of those. But now people are finding that if you add carbon nanotubes, you can get better performance. And a lot of companies are investing heavily in carbon nanotubes for lithium ion battery applications.
38:27 | John Cole
There are so many applications there, it's like we'll have to really open up the supply chain for carbon nanotubes.
38:33 | Rahul Sen
This was just me, I can go on and on. But I think
38:37 | Rob Snowberger
and you bring up a great point roll that I think I also would like to acknowledge, you know, Mitre, being a great arbiter of, you know, these breakthrough challenges and trying to put forth some of these ideas, for example, that Rahul just said, Hey, carbon nanotubes can do these things. And you know, you guys have identified the breakthrough challenges as a way to, to lift up technologies. And I would like to just say that, you know, I've been very proud to be a part of those discussions, we've been very proud to be a part of those discussions. And we also would like to thank, you know, the other companies that are involved, you know, I have seen that my team is treated with a lot of respect. And, you know, when it comes to large dollars and how to spend them, and you have professionals from large companies, you know, you might expect that there's going to be a lot of pushback and whatnot. But so far, at least, I think the industry has been very responsible and very friendly and working to actually find the worthwhile technologies that can be pushed forward and are deserving of a chance for some of that money to help get them lifted off the ground. And so I just wanted to say I've been very proud to be a part of this industry in the US and to see us all coming together under groups like Mitre to talk about how we can best guide policy and suggest things to the government. So I decided
39:54 | John Cole
to great endorsement for this Semiconductor Alliance and for all the work my colleagues are doing around that space. So Thanks. Thanks for that.
40:01 | Rob Snowberger
Yeah, thanks. Thank you for all your hard work guys really we appreciate it. Thank you for being the referees in the room and I think everybody's playing nice.
40:10 | John Cole
Rob, Rahul, thank you so much for joining me this has been a great conversation about semiconductors in America and and everything sort of in between so one appreciate you for all, all that you're doing out there with the Nantero and and all the things you're doing with the Semiconductor Alliance and I can't wait to talk to you all again soon.
40:27 | Rob Snowberger
Thank you route you thanks for all your hard work and thanks for having us. We're proud to be here. Pleasure