Irish chip breakthrough for nanotechnology research

25 Apr 2006

Work has completed on a new test microchip that will be used in Irish universities with the aim of furthering research into nanotechnology.

The processor is the result of collaboration between Intel Ireland and scientists at the Centre for Research in Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN), located in Trinity College, Dublin.

Known as the Adaptive Grid, the chip is said to be suitable for testing materials and devices at the nano scale of a billionth of a metre. Using Intel’s knowledge in manufacturing, the silicon chips have been patterned and functionalised to act as templates for the arrangement of materials such as carbon nanotubes. The trick is to encourage these nanotubes to bed down in predefined trenches on the silicon grid pattern.

It is thought that this way CRANN researchers can find them, measure them and gain more reliable information about these materials and their distinct properties. In the future more functionality can be added to form the basis of practical, usable devices. More revisions of these chips are currently being planned.

At an event in Trinity College yesterday to mark the development Intel Ireland general manager Jim OHara called it an example of the synergy gained through academia partnering with industry. “Collaboration can be very powerful. Here, scientists and technologists are working together to unravel the promise of the nanoscale. I’m delighted that Intel Ireland and CRANN have achieved the first test chips in this project and I look forward to many new scientific and technological breakthroughs ahead as a result.”

CRANN director Prof John Boland said that the technology would “provide both CRANN and Intel with a unique window to the future and ensure Ireland is recognised as a world-class centre for research”.

The centre was set up two years ago and receives funding from Science Foundation Ireland and the National Development Plan. CRANN works closely with Intel Ireland and other industry and university participants.

By Gordon Smith