Nanoelectronics; Nanotechnology in Electronics:

How can nanotechnology improve the capabilities of electronic components?

Nanoelectronics holds some answers for how we might increase the capabilities of electronics devices while we reduce their weight and power consumption. Some of the nanoelectronics areas under development, which you can explore in more detail by following the links provided in the next section, include the following topics.

Improving display screens on electronics devices. This involves reducing power consumption while decreasing the weight and thickness of the screens.

Increasing the density of memory chips. Researchers are developing a type of memory chip with a projected density of one terabyte of memory per square inch or greater.

Reducing the size of transistors used in integrated circuits. One researcher believes it may be possible to "put the power of all of today's present computers in the palm of your hand".

Nanoelectronics: Applications under Development

Researchers are looking into the following nanoelectronics projects:

  • Researchers at the University of Michigan have demonstrated a technique to grow single layers of hexagonal boron nitride on graphene. The boron nitride can be used as an insulator, so this techique may lead to wafer level sheets of very thin graphene insulated by very thin boron nitride.

  • Researchers at Harvard have used nano fabrication techniques to build a laser on a lithium niobate chip, to be used in lithium niobate photonic circuits.

  • Researchers at NIST have demostrated an LED build with zinc oxide nanostructures called fins which generates much higher light output than existing designs of similar size. The researchers also found that raising the current caused the structure to generate laser light.

  • Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have demonstrated atomically-thin indium-tin oxide sheets that may make touchscreens that are cost less to manufacture and well as being flexible and comsumes less power.

  • Cadmium selenide nanocrystals deposited on plastic sheets have been shown to form flexible electronic circuits. Researchers are aiming for a combination of flexibility, a simple fabrication process and low power requirements.

  • Integrating silicon nanophotonics components into CMOS integrated circuits. This optical technique is intended to provide higher speed data transmission between integrated circuits than is possible with electrical signals.

  • Researchers at UC Berkeley have demonstrated a low power method to use nanomagnets as switches, like transistors, in electrical circuits. Their method might lead to electrical circuits with much lower power consumption than transistor based circuits.

  • Researchers at Georgia Tech, the University of Tokyo and Microsoft Research have developed a method to print prototype circuit boards using standard inkjet printers. Silver nanoparticle ink was used to form the conductive lines needed in circuit boards.

  • Researchers at Caltech have demonstrated a laser that uses a nanopatterned silicon surface that helps produce the light with much tighter frequency control than previously achieved. This may allow much higher data rates for information transmission over fiber optics.

  • Building transistors from carbon nanotubes to enable minimum transistor dimensions of a few nanometers and developing techniques to manufacture integrated circuits built with nanotube transistors.

  • Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated a method to make functioning integrated circuits using carbon nanotubes. In order to make the circuit work they developed methods to remove metallic nanotubes, leaving only semiconducting nanotubes, as well as an algorithm to deal with misaligned nanotubes. The demonstration circuit they fabricated in the university labs contains 178 functioning transistors.

  • Developing a lead free solder reliable enough for space missions and other high stress environments using copper nanoparticles.

  • Using electrodes made from nanowires that would enable flat panel displays to be flexible as well as thinner than current flat panel displays.

  • Using semiconductor nanowires to build transistors and integrated circuits.

  • Transistors built in single atom thick graphene film to enable very high speed transistors.

  • Researchers have developed an interesting method of forming PN junctions, a key component of transistors, in graphene. They patterned the p and n regions in the substrate. When the graphene film was applied to the substrate electrons were either added or taken from the graphene, depending upon the doping of the substrate. The researchers believe that this method reduces the disruption of the graphene lattice  that can occur with other methods.

  • Combining gold nanoparticles with organic molecules to create a transistor known as a NOMFET (Nanoparticle Organic Memory Field-Effect Transistor).

  • Using carbon nanotubes to direct electrons to illuminate pixels, resulting in a lightweight, millimeter thick "nanoemmissive" display panel.

  • Making integrated circuits with features that can be measured in nanometers (nm), such as the process that allows the production of integrated circuits with 22 nm wide transistor gates.

  • Using nanosized magnetic rings to make Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM).

  • Developing molecular-sized transistors which may allow us to shrink the width of transistor gates to approximately one nm which will significantly increase transistor density in integrated circuits.

  • Using self-aligning nanostructures to manufacture nanoscale integrated circuits.

  • Using nanowires to build transistors without p-n junctions.

  • Using buckyballs to build dense, low power memory devices

  • Using magnetic quantum dots in spintronic semiconductor devices. Spintronic devices are expected to be significantly higher density and lower power consumption because they measure the spin of electronics to determine a 1 or 0, rather than measuring groups of electronics as done in current semiconductor devices.

  • Using nanowires made of an alloy of iron and nickel to create dense memory devices. By applying a current magnetized sections along the length of the wire. As the magnetized sections move along the wire, the data is read by a stationary sensor. This method is called race track memory.

  • Using silver nanowires embedded in a polymer to make conductive layers that can flex, without damaging the conductor.

  • IMEC and Nantero are developing a memory chip that uses carbon nanotubes. This memory is labeled NRAM for Nanotube-Based Nonvolatile Random Access Memory and is intended to be used in place of high density Flash memory chips.

  • Researcher have developed an organic nanoglue that forms a nanometer thick film between a computer chip and a heat sink. They report that using this nanoglue significantly increases the thermal conductance between the computer chip and the heat sink, which could help keep computer chips and other components cool.

  • Researchers at Georgia Tech, the University of Tokyo and Microsoft Research have developed a method to print prototype circuit boards using standard inkjet printers. Silver nanoparticle ink was used to form the conductive lines needed in circuit boards.

Nanoelectronics: Resources

Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Lab

Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Los Alamos National Labs

Columbia Nano Initiative  at Columbia University

Related Webpages

Nanotechnology in Computer Memory



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