Monday, February 14, 2011

Chips Just Got Smaller

Things are just about to get even smaller. Rember that portable ‘brick’ that was once your mobile phone, engineers at Harvard have developed a computer chip made of tiny "nanowires" which could become the foundations of a new generation of even smaller computers.

Nature reports that the team at Harvard University has developed the nanowires that are thousands of times thinner than a human hair and at their core a germanium element sheathed in a silicon shell. The research has been partially driven by the realisation that the current manufacturing methods used in making chips will soon reach a point where it is impossible to shrink them further.

The group's prototype design is based on a mesh of the nanowires containing nearly 500 ‘wires’ in a 1mm-square area, criss-crossed with normal metal wires. By laying a thin stack of semiconductor materials on top, the mesh can act as a complex collection of controllable transistors. It in fact builds circuits from the bottom up, which is the opposite of the way commercial circuits are built today. Although nanowires have the potential to occupy an area well under the current limitations, suffer less leakage of electrical current than current transistors, they do operate at significantly slower speeds.

They will however further shrink technology and offer huge potential to a wide range of electronics.

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