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Hardware Technology

MIT's Self-Assembling 3D Nanostructures — the Future of Computer Chips? 30

MrSeb writes "MIT has devised a way of creating complex, self-assembling 3D nanostructures of wires and junctions. While self-assembling structures have been made from polymers before, this is the first time that multi-layer, configurable layouts have been created, opening up the path to self-assembled computer chips. Basically, MIT uses diblock copolymers, which are large molecules formed from two distinct polymers (each with different chemical and physical properties). These copolymers naturally form long cylinders — wires. The key to MIT's discovery is that the scientists have worked out how to exactly control the arrangement of these block copolymers. By growing tiny, 10nm-wide silica 'posts' on a silicon substrate, the researchers can control the angles, bends, spacing, and junctions of the copolymer wires. Once the grid of posts has been built, the wafer is simply covered in the polymer material, and chip's wires and junctions self-assemble. The reason everyone is so excited, though, is that the silica posts can be built using equipment that is compatible with existing semiconductor fabs. Theoretically, chips built using this technique could have a much smaller feature size than the 28nm and 22nm chips produced by TSMC and Intel. According to Caroline Ross of MIT, it should be possible to build posts that are much smaller than 10nm."
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MIT's Self-Assembling 3D Nanostructures — the Future of Computer Chips?

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  • by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @03:25PM (#40261299)

    Technically a 2-dimensional metallic sheet of atoms is an insulator (the number of paths the electron can take that close back on its original position increases quicker then the number which do not).

    But a 1-dimensional line of atoms goes back to being an ordinary conductor.

    More practically, Scanning Tunneling Microscopes are based on producing single atom sized features on their tips from where electrons tunnel from - but if you touch the tip to the surface they just start conducting normally.

  • by PaulBu ( 473180 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @05:05PM (#40262501) Homepage

    I do not think that it will be "one standard blank" -- from how I imagine it works, post positions determine ends and T's of the "wires", so, good luck with "arbitrary circuits"... From TFA:
    "By carefully controlling the initial spacing of the posts, Ross explains, the researchers were able to set the spacing, angles, bends and junctions of the cylinders that form on the surface."

    Of course, this can as well be a great achievement, for other, more biologically-connected purposes, but I am getting tired of generic "This is the way to make next-gen chips" hype, just call it what it is, a decent advance in nanotech, mixing semiconductors and long molecules, but do not hold your breath for the next Pentium to come out of it! ;-)

    As to "Anybody could design chips" part -- well... Your world is much luckier than mine! ;-)

    Paul B.

"It is better to have tried and failed than to have failed to try, but the result's the same." - Mike Dennison