Nanowire Transistors For Smallest Computers

Nanowire transistors could form the basis for the tiniest computers possible, says a team led by Charles Lieber, a professor of chemistry at Harvard, and Shamik Das, lead engineer in MITRE's nanosystems group.

They built a reprogrammable circuit out of nanowire transistors; taken together, you wind up with the first scalable nanowire computer.

To make the new nanowire circuit, researchers deposited lines of nanowires, made of a germanium core and silicon shell, on a substrate and crossed them with lines of metal electrodes to create a grid. The points where the nanowires and electrodes intersect act as a transistor that can be turned on and off independently. The researchers made a single tile, with an area of 960 square microns containing 496 functional transistors. It is designed to wire to other tiles so that the transistors, in aggregate, could act as complex logic gates for processing or memory.

The nanowire transistors maintain their state-on or off—regardless of whether the power is on. This gives it an instant-on capability, important for low-power sensors that might need to collect data only sporadically and also need to conserve power.


(Smallest computers yet?)
Top: Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of a programmable
nanowire logic circuit tile assembled bottom-up for computational
functionalities such as full-adder. The tile can be scaled up into a
fully-functional integrated nanoprocessor
Bottom: This false-colored scanning electron microscope image
shows a nanowire processor tile superimposed on top of the
architecture used to design the circuit.

These circuits could be as much as ten times more power-efficient than circuits made of traditional materials. Nanowire doesn't allow electric current to leak, and the design uses capacitive connections instead of resistive ones.

This is the kind of computing size and power you'd need to implement the nanomachine swarm from Stanislaw Lem's amazing 1954 novel The Invincible:

"Two types of systems were successful in this evolutionary pattern: first, those that made the greatest progress in miniaturization and then those that became settled in a definite place. The first type were the beginning of these 'black clouds.' I believe them to be very tiny pseudo insects that, if necessary, and for their common good, can unite to form a superordinate system. This is the course taken by the evolution of the mobile mechanisms."
(Read more about Lem's nanomachine swarms)

Fans of Philip K. Dick are also anticipating the arrival of the autofac from his 1955 short story of the same name:

The pellet was a smashed container of machinery, tiny metallic elements too minute to be analyzed without a microscope...

The bits were in motion. Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants, smaller than pins, working energetically, purposefully - constructing something that looked like a tiny rectangle of steel.

From Lieber research group via Technology Review.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/10/2011)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Computer ")

Entire Planet Modeled In New MS Flight Sim
'CIC uses [it] to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns...' - Neal Stephenson, 1992.

String Art Courtesy Of Robot Artist
The number of different ways to span a thread between a larger number of hooks is astronomical.

Tetraplegics Dominate Avatar Races
Well, just speaking brain-to-computer...

IBM's Grain Of Sand Computer
'Our ancestors... thought to make the very sand beneath their feet intelligent...' - Stanislaw Lem, 1965.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Entire Planet Modeled In New MS Flight Sim
'CIC uses [it] to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns...'

FlyZoo Robot Hotel By Alibaba
'... hotels that specialized in non-human service.'

Implanted Memories Provide Songs To Birds
Finches can't tell the difference.

Robot Tuna Swims As Fast As Nature's Tuna
'With one fluid motion, it surged forward, plunged, and was gone.'

Shapeshifter Robot Is Comprised Of Cobots
'Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed. For an interval, the device struggled with itself...'

Google Commits To Fighting Deepfakes
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'

China Accused Of Harvesting Organs From Unwanted Groups
'The death penalty was his immortality, and he would vote the death penalty for any crime at all.'

Osmiridium Sounds Like Science Fiction (But It's Not!)
I can't resist science-fictional elements. Especially when they're real.

When Will We See The First Space Hotel?
'The heart of it was a vast hexagonal structure of welded metal, ten miles across...'

SpaceX Starhopper Has Flash Gordon Style
SpaceX makes retro cool spacecraft.

Mindar The Robot Buddhist Priest Offers A Blessing
'Not working is the hardest work of all.'

Does Your Company Need A 'Chief Dreamer'?
As far as the future is concerned 'they're the only experts we have'.

Helios Modular Touch Screen Wall Lights
'The walls and ceiling bore an irregular spacing of illuminum tiles...'

Zephyr Solar-Electric Stratospheric Drone
'The planes flew continuously, twenty-four hours a day...'

Robot Hummingbird Hovers Biomimetically
'With a buzz... it started out on its journey.'

Harvest Water From Air With Sunlight
'The atmosphere yielded its moisture with reluctance.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.