Nanotechnology is changing significantly the field of electronics, especially in regard to computers, telecommunications and optics. This is the first of a series of articles that deal with nanotechnology applications for electronics.
What is Nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology deals with systems designed and manufactured at the scale of the atom, or the nanometer scale. More specifically, nanotechnology deals with structures of less than 100 nanometers (nm). One nm is 1 billionth of a meter. Nanotechnology involves the manipulation and control of atoms and molecules, the building blocks of all materials. Broadly speaking, there are two approaches in nanotechnology: bottom-up and top-down. The first approach, the bottom-up, involves manipulating small numbers individual atoms or more complex molecules, into structures typically using minute probes. The second, top-down, approach implies controlling processes to force atoms and molecules to build-up themselves to desired locations and/or structures.
Nanotechnology and electronics
Nanotechnology is already being used by the electronic industry and you will be surprised to know that many of today’s electronics have already incorporated many applications that the nanotechnology science has developed. For example, new computer microprocessors have less than 100 nanometers (nm) features. Smaller sizes mean a significant increase in speed and more processing capability.
These advances will undoubtedly help achieve better computers. However, at some point in time (very near in the future) current electronic technology will no longer be enough to handle the demand for new chips microprocessors. Right now, the method for chip manufacturing is known as lithography or etching. By this technology, a probe literally writes over a surface the chip circuit. This way of building circuits in electronic chips has a limitation of around 22 nanometers (most advanced chip processors uses 60-70 nm size features). Below 22 nm errors will occur and short circuits and silicon limitations will prevent chip manufacturing.
What’s on the future?
Nanotechnology may offer new ways of working for electronics. Nanotechnology science is developing new circuit materials, new processors, new means of storing information and new manners of transferring information. Nanotechnology can offer greater versatility because of faster data transfer, more “on the go" processing capabilities and larger data memories.
A new field is emerging in electronics that will be a giant leap in computer and electronics science. It is the field of quantum computing and quantum technology. Quantum computing is area of scientific knowledge aimed at developing computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory. In quantum computing the “qbit" instead of the traditional bit of information is used. Traditionally, a bit can assume two values: 1 and 0. All the computers up-to-date are based on the “bit" principle. However, the new “qbit" is able to process anything between 0 and 1. This implies that new types of calculations and high processing speeds can be achieved.
Quantum computers have been more of a research area until now. But recently, the first quantum computer has been built in the United States, according to a recent paper published on the prestigious scientific journal Nature Physics. This new computer is said to achieve unseen processing speeds to the tune of a billion times per second, making this the fastest chip on earth.
We are bound to see many nanotechnological applications within the electronic industry in the near future. These will undoubtedly increase the quality of life of our society.