Nanoscientists aim to shake up future of electronic devices

16 May 2012

Irish nanoscience institute CRANN, which was involved in the research

Nanoscientists in Ireland have been carrying out research to develop materials that, they claim, could in time revolutionise the manufacture of silicon chips and lead to a new wave of next-generation computers and real-time 3D video processing.

The research was recently published in Nanoscale. The researchers themselves hail from the Science Foundation Ireland-funded nanoscience institute CRANN, which is based at Trinity College Dublin, and from University College Cork (UCC).

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin and Intel’s researcher-in-residence based at CRANN assisted the scientists.

Alternative to silicon device manufacturing

Led by Prof Mick Morris, who is based at UCC, the scientists said they have come up with a greater understanding of the assembling properties of block copolymers.

In all, three companies and six research partners across seven European countries were involved in the research.

As for block copolymers, they are present in materials such as spandex and rubber shoe soles. They consist of repeating structural units and can form highly regular column-like and linear structures.

Morris and his team set out to electrically characterise large areas of nano-electronic devices, which are created by the self-assembly of block copolymers.

They said that it is this discovery that could prove to be an alternative to silicon device manufacturing.

With the costs of silicon device manufacturing increasing dramatically, the scientists said this research could be developed to allow cost-effective production of nanoscale electronic devices.

They said the techniques and materials used in the research are consistent with modern microelectronic fabrication and could be used in industry, such as in the manufacturing of next-generation devices by Intel.

“The potential of our research is extremely exciting and reflects many years of hard work. This is the first time that anyone has demonstrated that large areas of nano-electronic devices can be developed in this fashion and highlights a pathway to commercial applications,” said Morris.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic