Single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) based thin film transistors (TFTs) could be at the core of next-generation flexible electronics - displays, electronic circuits, sensors, memory chips, and other applications that are transitioning from rigid substrates, such as silicon and glass, to flexible substrates. What's holding back commercial applications is that industrial-type manufacturing of large scale SWCNT-based nanoelectronic devices isn't practical yet because controlling the morphology of single-walled carbon nanotubes is still causing headaches for materials engineers. In an effort to develop a new and effective solution process of isolated SWCNTs, researchers in Japan have now demonstrated a novel solution process to fabricate high-performance TFTs of individual SWCNTs using DNA.
Biomechanical energy is one of the main energy components in biological systems. Developing an effective technique that can convert biomechanical energy into electricity is important for the future of in vivo implantable biosensors and other nanomedical devices. Researchers have already shown the conversion of biomechanical energy into electricity by a muscle-movement-driven nanogenerator to harvest mechanical energy from body movement under in vitro conditions. In a first demonstration of using nanotechnology to convert tiny physical motion into electricity in an in vivo environment, the same team has now reported the implanting of a nanogenerator in a live rat to harvest energy generated by its breath and heartbeat.
Before the superior electronic properties of graphene can be utilized in industrial products, researchers must find a way that allows the mass production of graphene-based devices. New work by a European research team now demonstrates the feasibility of graphene synthesis on commercially available cubic SiC/Si substrates of 300 mm and greater in diameter, which result in graphene flakes electronically decoupled from the substrate. This work demonstrates that it is possible to grow high-quality graphene layers on beta-SiC(001), i.e. on the cubic modification of this material. This is a very important step, since beta-SiC is commercially available and it can be well integrated into present electronic production processes.
Current fabrication technologies for nanoscale devices include deep-UV or electron-beam (e-beam) lithography. Both of these techniques involve successive deposition of metal or insulating layer and a resist layer, which is patterned using a UV source or a scanning electron beam. The process needs to be repeated for each layer of the architecture while the sample is taken out of the high vacuum chamber. Thus, multilayer lithography processes seriously compromise throughput and cost. In addition, the resolution is limited in the sub-10 nm regime. Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore have now successfully demonstrated, for the first time, a lithography-free, direct-write technique for fabricating discrete field-effect transistors, as well as digital logic gates on a single nanowire.
Ferroelectric materials have unique properties - spontaneous, switchable polarization, piezoelectricity, and pyroelectricity - that makes them attractive for a host of applications, ranging from medical ultrasound to examine fetuses and internal organs, military sonar for underwater navigation and detection, to energy harvesting devices for powering mobile gadgets. Recently, memory storage devices utilizing ferroelectrics have gained much attention due to their nonvolatility and fast switching speed. It was theoretically predicted that a nanodisk with a diameter of 3.2 nm could maintain spontaneous polarization. However the fabrication of ferroelectric nanostructure at this size level is extremely difficult and the smallest diameter for ferroelectric nanostructure with narrow size distribution obtained from experiments so far has been 60 nm. Researchers have now managed to prepare an ultrahigh density array of lead titanate nanoislands with a lateral dimension of 22 nm and a height of 7 nm.
One of the most neglected aspects in the nanoelectronics field is the problem of wiring. How do we wire individual nanoelectronic devices within a nanointegrated circuit together? Furthermore, how do we extract and input information from such a circuit - i.e. how do we let it communicate with the outside world? Researchers at Caltech present a method for multiplexing the electrical signals from potentially tens of thousands of nanoscale sensors onto a single optical output, using piezoelectric nanoscale mechanical resonators. This work is a step closer to building miniscule, highly integrated sensor arrays that are untethered from the external environment.
Even though traditional, digital computers have consistently increased in speed and complexity, they are limited by their reliance on sequential processing of instructions; i.e. no matter haw fast they are, they still process only one bit at a time. By contrast, individual neurons in our brain are very slow: they fire at only about 1000 times per second; however, since they are operating in a massively parallel way, with millions of neurons working collectively, they are able to complete certain tasks more efficiently than even the fastest super-computer. Another important distinction of our brain is that, during computing, information processing circuits evolve continuously to solve complex problems. An international research team from Japan and Michigan Technological University has now created a similar process of circuit evolution in an organic molecular layer, which also solves complex problems. This brain-like 'evolutionary' circuit has been realized for the first time in the world.
If you think that building an artificial human brain is science fiction, you are probably right - for now. But don't think for a moment that researchers are not working hard on laying the foundations for what is called neuromorphic engineering - a new interdisciplinary discipline that includes nanotechnologies and whose goal is to design artificial neural systems with physical architectures similar to biological nervous systems. One of the key components of any neuromorphic effort is the design of artificial synapses. The human brain contains vastly more synapses than neurons - by a factor of about 10,000 - and therefore it is necessary to develop a nanoscale, low power, synapse-like device if scientists want to scale neuromorphic circuits towards the human brain level. New research now suggests that memristor devices are capable to emulate the biological synapses with properly designed CMOS neuron components.