Moore's Law in the development of transistor density compared to the development speed of passive components

Development progress: Passive components vs microchips

Ultracap-Knowledge | Rainer Hake | reading time: 5 minutes

When Gordon Moore formulated his Moore's Law, later named after him, in 1965, it was initially only about pro­duction efficiency and less about the per­for­mance of semi­con­ductors. However, the industry quickly realized that by doubling the number of tran­sistors on the same surface area within 2 years, significant perfor­mance increases could be achieved at a rapid pace. Apple has just intro­duced the M3 chip family based on ARM tech­nology in 3 nm technology for the new Macs in October 2023. In 1970, there was space for around 1,000 tran­sistors on a micro­chip. Today, there are already 92 billion tran­sistors in the M3-Max on an area only slightly larger than a fingertip.

Rapid development by miniaturization

Microchips have structures 5,000 times finer than a human hair and are produced using light with an extremely short wave­length. The production tech­nology of the Dutch company ASML, which is based on EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography tech­nology from Carl Zeiss, is once again pushing the boundaries of Moore's law. So what about passive components? Complex electronic solutions are not just about semi­con­ductor chips. The functio­nality of electrical engi­neering is far more complex and requires corres­ponding, so-called passive com­ponents. According to common definitions, these have no ampli­fying or signal-changing properties. Inductors, capaci­tors and resis­tors are always part of elec­tronic assemblies. In addition, there are also necessary connec­ting elements such as connectors etc. The techno­logical develop­ment of inductors, resistors and capacitors was much slower. Manu­facturing techno­logies, materials, physics and electro­chemistry set narrower limits for analog physical para­meters than one might expect. The saying that I was always told as a student, that physics cannot be cheated, still holds true.

Tighter physical limits for passive components

The smallest changes in a ferrite core have enormous effects on the magnetic properties, tempe­rature response, induc­tance or quality of a coil. For example, the pro­portion of water in the ferrite raw material during sin­tering has a significant influ­ence on the magnetic para­meters. Never­theless, great progress has also been made with these materials, especially with high-quality primary materials and highly qualified manu­facturing processes, particularly for very large quantities, such as those required in today's large-scale production. It has not been possible to double perfor­mance every two years, because physics does not allow this.

Major advances in capacitor development

There have also been many new techno­logical leaps in capa­citors in almost 60 years. Ceramic chip capacitors in multi­layer techno­logy have become an integral part of modern SMT manufacturing. EDLCs as energy storage and battery supple­ments are another mile­stone. But here too, unfor­tunately, there is no equi­valent to Moore's law. The electro­lytes, the carbons, the surfaces and thus the specifi­cations of the capa­citors have under­gone consi­derable further develop­ment in response to pressure from industry and the auto­motive industry in particular in recent years. However, the known basic tech­nologies - film, polymer, ceramic and electrolytic capacitors - have essen­tially remained the same. One of the main demands of the industry was to specify higher operating tempera­tures, which was not easy. The properties of different known tech­nologies have there­fore been combined to create hybrid products.

Expanding boundaries with hybrid capacitor designs

Conductive polymer hybrid alu­minum electro­lytic capa­citors are a success­ful example of these efforts. These mark another mile­stone in the long history of electro­chemical capacitors. This technology com­bines the advantages of alu­minum electro­lytic capa­citors and "conductive polymer electrolytic capacitors". It consists of an anode made of alu­minum foil, a cathode made of con­ductive polymer and an electro­lyte that is a combi­nation of a liquid electro­lyte and a con­ductive polymer material. This hybrid design enables high capa­citance while main­taining the low equi­valent series resis­tance (ESR) and low leakage current of con­ductive polymer capa­citors, while pro­viding the high voltage rating and high ripple current capability of alu­minum electrolytic capacitors.

One of the main advantages for safety in electronic circuits is the "open" failure mode. This guaran­tees that the current flow is interrupted in the event of a malfunction. Further details see on our product page for conductive polymer hybrid AL Ecaps.

Conductive Polymer Hybrid Electrolytic Capacitors - Advantages over alternatives - Consulting CAPCOMP GmbH


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Why are components like ultracaps called different names?

The variety of terms is explained by the English-language terms commonly used in the electronics industry, which are often mixed with German terms or used synonymously. In some cases, manufacturers have also introduced artificial terms to better distinguish themselves from competitors. Here are the most important examples:

Double layer capacitors (DSK) are referred to synonymously as:

  • EDLC (Electric Double Layer Capacitor)
  • Supercapacitors = Supercaps
  • Ultracapacitors = Ultracaps
  • Goldcap™ [Panasonic]
  • Boostcap™  [Maxwell]
  • Greencap™  [Samwha]
  • PURIXEL™  [Pureechem] for supercap cells
  • PURETRON™  [Pureechem] for supercap modules

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