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 Notre Dame have developed a solar cell that is remarkably easy to assemble because the middle layer can be painted onto a clear electrode. First, they mix t-butanol, water, cadmium sulfide and titanium dioxide for 30 minutes. Next, they mask off a clear electrode with office tape. Once the tape is in place, they spread the mixture onto the electrode and then anneal it with a heat gun. Finally, they sandwich an electrolyte solution between the new electrode and a graphene composite electrode. And then, it’s time for testing under a beam of artificial light.
Painting Solar Cells with Nanoparticle Paste - [Link]
Imagine if the next coat of paint you put on the outside of your home generates electricity from light—electricity that can be used to power the appliances and equipment on the inside.
A team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame has made a major advance toward this vision by creating an inexpensive “solar paint” that uses semiconducting nanoparticles to produce energy.
“We want to do something transformative, to move beyond current silicon-based solar technology,” says Prashant Kamat, John A. Zahm Professor of Science in Chemistry and Biochemistry and an investigator in Notre Dame’s Center for Nano Science and Technology (NDnano), who leads the research.
“By incorporating power-producing nanoparticles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, we’ve made a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any conductive surface without special equipment.” [via]
Nanoparticle paint generates electricity - [Link]
Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have developed a new and significantly cheaper method of manufacturing fuel cells. A noble metal nanoparticle catalyst for fuel cells is prepared using atomic layer deposition (ALD). This ALD method for manufacturing fuel cells requires 60 per cent less of the costly catalyst than current methods.
Fuel cells could replace polluting combustion engines that are presently in use. However, in a fuel cell, chemical processes must be sped up by using a catalyst. The high price of catalysts is one of the biggest hurdles to the wide adoption of fuel cells at the moment.
The most commonly used fuel cells cover anode with expensive noble metal powder which reacts well with the fuel. By using the Aalto University researchers’ ALD method, this cover can be much thinner and more even than before which lowers costs and increases quality. [via]
Reducing the production costs of fuel cells - [Link]