Monday, August 17, 2009

The Smaller the Chip, The More Powerful

The Channel Wire
August 17, 2009

Scientists at IBM Research and the California Institute of Technology have developed a method of manufacturing more powerful microchips by using artificial DNA nanostructure, according to IBM. The new chips would pack more power and speed, while costing less and using less energy, according to IBM. The chips combine lithographic patterning with self assembly - a method to arrange DNA origami structures on surfaces compatible with today's semiconductor manufacturing equipment, according to IBM.

Today, the semiconductor industry is challenged with developing lithographic technology for sizes smaller than 22 nanometers and exploring new classes of transistors that employ carbon nanotubes or silicon nanowires, according to a release from IBM. Using artificial DNA molecules as a "scaffolding," where millions of carbon nanotubes could be deposited and assembled, could help reach sub-22 nanometer lithography, according to the company.

"This is the first demonstration of using biological molecules to help with processing in the semiconductor industry," IBM research manager Spike Narayan said in an interview with Reuters. "Basically, this is telling us that biological structures like DNA actually offer some very reproducible, repetitive kinds of patterns that we can actually leverage in semiconductor processes."

While expensive right now, the DNA origami process could trade hundreds of millions of dollars in complex tools for less than a million dollars of polymers, DNA solutions, and heating implements if the DNA origami process scales to production level, Narayan told Reuters. "The savings across many fronts could add up significantly," he said.

The short segments act as staples, according to IBM. The short staples can be modified to provide attachment sites for nano-scale components at resolutions as small as 6 nanometers.

The lithographic templates were made at IBM using the same semiconductor techniques used to make the chips found in today's computers, according to the company.

Posted by Scott Campbell at 7:45 AM

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