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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
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.
Can An Entire Brain Be Simulated In A Computer?
'The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of platinum iridium about the size of the human brain.' - Isaac Asimov, 1941.
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.
Spicy Tomatoes Created With Genetic Engineering
How about mashed potatoes and brown gravy?
Driverless Hotel Rooms Predicted In 1828
'Did you never see a moving house before?'
Yandex Self-Driving Taxi Is Very Smooth
'The big car was slowing down, its computer brain sensing an exit ahead.'
Shrimp Actually Made Of Algae Is A New Wave Food
Bring in that crop algae.
Cosplay Style Wings Could Work On Moon
'They're lovely! - titanalloy struts as light and strong as bird-bones...'
Tesla Model 3 Has Outside Speaker Grille
Robert Heinlein does it again.
Arizona Luddites Attack Self-Driving Vehicles
'Trucks don't drive by themselves...' Or do they?
Organaut! Russians 3D Print Living Tissue In Space
'For a while your colonists will have to come up [to orbit] to the Hospital...'
WINE Spacecraft To Extract Water From Asteroids
'Yes, strangely enough there was still sufficient water beneath the surface of Vesta.'
Japanese Swordsmiths Take On Asteroids
'... a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk.'
Saturn's Rings To Vanish, Let's Mine Them While We Can
'...the valuable shards of what had once been satellites.'
Humans Could Take Up A LOT Less Space
We'd have a lot more room for gardening...
Implosion Fabrication Shrinks 3D Objects To Nanoscale
'Carter had watched miniaturization a hundred times...'
GMO Houseplant Cleans Your Air
Removes compounds too small to be captured by a HEPA filter.
Nova Meat Can 3D Print Your Dinner
Printing out chicken nuggets.
MIT Scientists Create 'Peek-a-Boo Prober' From Jetsons
Well, George, it's the latest thing.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories