An evolution that started with thermionic valve-based mainframe computers and can now put multiples of their processing power into a modern lap-top is today proceeding towards ambient intelligence, in which ever more compact processing will be all around us and, quite literally, part of the furniture. Convergence of information and communications technology (ICT), today exemplified by the conjunction of GSM (global system for mobile) telephony with ‘palm’ PC power, will go much further as microscopic electronics become nanoscopic. Ultimately we will have the power to merge biological and inanimate intelligence to create extended neuro-electronic systems.Visionary stuff, but although the day of the cyborg may still be some way off, IMEC (Inter-University MicroElectronics Centre) — Europe’s leading independent microelectronics research organization — sees its role as expediting some aspects of this future. This means, inter alia, a dedication to maintaining the currency of Moore’s Law, in the belief that this can continue for several years yet before fundamental limits impose insurmountable barriers. Success will require further extension of the boundaries of complementary metal oxide silicon (CMOS), that backbone of mainstream electronic technology. Materials, both the manipulation of existing and development of new, are germane to this, as Materials Today discovered on a recent visit.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(02)00638-7