Nanotransistors just got a lot more nano. A new chip construction process cooked up by Applied Materials in Santa Clara creates transistors so small they can be measured in smatterings of atoms.
The company can now coax a few dozen of the little guys to assemble themselves into a base layer that helps control the flow of electricity on computer chips. The biggest development is the manufacturing process: Applied Materials devised a way to keep several interconnected manufacturing machines in a near-total vacuum—at this level, a single stray nanoparticle can ruin everything.
The other part of the breakthrough is making this base from hafnium (used also in nuclear control rods) instead of the standard silicon oxynitride, which is terrible at holding back electrons on a supersmall scale. (Gordon Moore himself has called this technique the biggest advancement in the field in 40 years—and it is likely to keep processors advancing on pace with his eponymous law for the foreseeable future.)
Applied Materials’ system means transistors can be about 22 nanometers wide, as opposed to the current standard of about 45 nanometers, resulting in smaller, cheaper computing devices.
CA Lab Creates the World’s Smallest Transistors - [Link]
Researchers at the University of Leeds have used a type of bacterium which ‘eats’ iron to create a surface of magnets, similar to those found in traditional hard drives, and wiring. As the bacterium ingests the iron it creates tiny magnets within itself. The team has also begun to understand how the proteins inside these bacteria collect, shape and position these “nanomagnets” inside their cells and can now replicate this behavior outside the bacteria. Using this knowledge the team hopes to develop a ‘bottom-up’ approach for creating cheaper, more environmentally-friendly electronics of the future.
The magnetic array was created using a protein which creates perfect nanocrystals of magnetite inside the bacterium Magnetospirilllum magneticum. In a process akin to potato-printing on a much smaller scale, this protein is attached to a gold surface in a checkerboard pattern and placed in a solution containing iron. At a temperature of 80°C, similarly-sized crystals of magnetite form on the sections of the surface covered by the protein. The researchers are now working to reduce the size of these islands of magnets, in order to make arrays of single nanomagnets. They also plan to vary the magnetic materials that this protein can control. These next steps would allow each of these nanomagnets to hold one bit of information allowing the construction of better hard drives. [via]
Researchers grow Biological Hard Drive from Bacteria - [Link]
Graphene is the next-generation miracle semiconductor material, many believe, but it is hard to work with and harder to mass produce. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) now believes it has the an answer–combine graphene with organic proteins to create a conductive paper from which future electronic devices can be fabricated: R. Colin Johnson
The final hybrid nanocomposite paper made of protein fibrils and graphene after vacuum filtration drying. The schematic route used by the researchers to combine graphene and protein fibrils into the new hybrid nanocomposite paper. (Reproduced from Li et al. Nature Nanotechnology 2012) [via]
Graphene + Proteins Enabling Cheap Semiconductors - [Link]
Sebastian Anthony writes:
Numerous research groups around the world are reporting that they have created silicene, a one-atom-thick hexagonal mesh of silicon atoms — the silicon equivalent of graphene.
Since its discovery a few years ago, you will have heard a lot about graphene, especially with regard to its truly wondrous electrical properties. Graphene is the most conductive material in the known universe, and IBM has shown that graphene transistors could be become the basis of transistors (and computers) that operate in the hundreds-of-gigahertz or terahertz (THz) range. There’s only one problem: Graphene isn’t really a semiconductor in the silicon/computer chip sense of the word. Unlike silicon (or germanium), graphene doesn’t have a bandgap, which makes it very hard to actually build a switching device — such as a transistor — out of it. Researchers have had some luck in introducing a bandgap, but graphene is still a long way away from being used in current silicon processes.
Single-layer silicon that could beat graphene to market - [Link]
Using a neutron detector to measure cosmic rays may sound odd, but this has been a common way to measure the level of cosmic ray levels since 1948. This is because if the primary cosmic ray that starts a cascade has an energy over 500 MeV, some of its secondary by-products are neutrons that will reach ground where they can be detected. These systems are commonly called a Neutron Monitor
Cosmic Ray Neutron Monitor - [Link]
Replacing electricity with light: First physical ‘metatronic’ circuit created – [via]
The technological world of the 21st century owes a tremendous amount to advances in electrical engineering, specifically, the ability to finely control the flow of electrical charges using increasingly small and complicated circuits. And while those electrical advances continue to race ahead, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are pushing circuitry forward in a different way, by replacing electricity with light.
Replacing electricity with light: First physical ‘metatronic’ circuit created - [Link]
Whoa! See that little bump in the middle of the micrograph? THAT’S A TRANSISTOR. From Ars Technica: [via]
a group of researchers has fabricated a single-atom transistor by introducing one phosphorous atom into a silicon lattice. Through the use of a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) and hydrogen-resist lithography, Martin Fuechsle et al. placed the phosphorous atom precisely between very thin silicon leads, allowing them to measure its electrical behavior. The results show clearly that we can read both the quantum transitions within the phosphorous atom and its transistor behavior. No smaller solid-state devices are possible, so systems of this type reveal the limit of Moore’s law—the prediction about the miniaturization of technology—while pointing toward solid-state quantum computing devices.
A Transistor From a Single Atom - [Link]
With the help of the most powerful X-ray laser in the world researchers of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy have heated a piece of aluminum to a temperature of two million degrees Celsius (3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit). They also managed to verify the temperature achieved. This work could be an important step to a better understanding of nuclear fusion processes that go on in the cores of stars and giant planets like Jupiter. [via]
3,600,000 F – The Hottest Thing on Earth - [Link]
Expedition 30 astronaut Don Pettit uses knitting needles and water droplets to demonstrate physics in space through ‘Science off the Sphere.’ This is part of the first video in a series for a partnership between NASA and the American Physical Society to share unique videos from the International Space Station with students, educators and science fans from around the world.
Science off the Sphere: Knitting Needle Experiment - [Link]
(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– A new paradigm in quantum information processing has been demonstrated by physicists at UC Santa Barbara. Their results are published in this week’s issue of Science Express online.
UCSB physicists have demonstrated a quantum integrated circuit that implements the quantum von Neumann architecture. In this architecture, a long-lived quantum random access memory can be programmed using a quantum central processing unit, all constructed on a single chip, providing the key components for a quantum version of a classical computer.
The UCSB hardware is based on superconducting quantum circuits, and must be cooled to very low temperatures to display quantum behavior. The architecture represents a new paradigm in quantum information processing, and shows that quantum large-scale-integration is within reach.
Physicists Demonstrate a Quantum Processor – Memory on a Chip - [Link]