Proton-conducting materials have become important for a wide range of technologies, such as fuel cells, batteries, and biosensors. A great deal of research has been devoted to developing improved and application-specific proton conducting materials. Researchers even developed a proton-based transistor that could let machines communicate with living things. Scientists now have discovered and characterized novel electrical properties for the cephalopod structural protein reflectin.
As we are approaching the post-CMOS area, device architectures that are drastically different from today's semiconductor chips are being proposed by researchers. New design concepts are now focused on devices that have not to work despite the presence of quantum effects, but because of them. Solotronics is a relatively new field of optoelectronics that aims to exploit quantum effects at the ultimate limits of miniaturization. This technology seeks to provide a possibility to create in a controllable manner - and to manipulate - single dopants in solids in order to develop optoelectronic devices with only one dopant. To do that, it addresses single dopants placed in a semiconductor material with atomic precision.
Much hope (and hype) rides on graphene as a 'post-silicon' material for fabricating next-generation nanoelectronic devices. However, graphene's Achilles heel is its lack of an energy band gap. Therefore, graphene must be modified to produce a band gap, if it is to be used in electronic devices. Using a new approach, researchers now have demonstrated the operation of an all two-dimensional transistor, using a transition metal dichalcogenides channel material, hexagonal boron nitride gate dielectric, and graphene source/drain and gate contacts.
The growing market of power electronics creates new challenges for engineers and material specialists as it requires devices withstanding increasingly high voltages and for this new approaches to design and the adoption of new materials such as gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) are needed. The biggest point of attention for power electronics is breakdown voltage, that is, the highest voltage applicable to the device before it breaks down and starts to become non-functional.
For years, scientists and engineers have worked to design electronics which can interface with the body. However, typical silicon wafer-based electronics, which are planar and stiff, are not suited to interface with the soft, curvilinear, and dynamic environment that biology presents. By exploiting the features of shape-memory polymer (SMP) substrates, an international team of researchers has now demonstrated a unique form of adaptive electronics which softly conform or deploy into 3D shapes after exposure to a stimulus. The resulting organic thin-film transistors (OTFTs) can change their mechanical properties from rigid and planar, to soft and compliant, in order to enable soft and conformal wrapping around 3D objects, including biological tissue.
Taking the approach of flexible electronics one step further, researchers now have integrated all-carbon based electronic devices to live plants and insects. They developed an unconventional approach for the in situ synthesis of monolithically integrated electronic devices based on single-walled carbon nanotube channels and graphitic electrodes. The highly flexible transistors were formed directly by the in situ synthesis using patterned metal catalyst films and subsequently could be transferred to both planar and nonplanar substrates, including papers, clothes, and fingernails.
Most of the accomplishments in building carbon nanotube circuits have come at the single-nanotube level. Researchers have been struggling with two major obstacles in building CNT-based circuits: the presence of metallic CNTs and a 'perfect' alignment of nanotubes. In new work, researchers have now demonstrated the ability to fabricate, in a scalable manner, larger-scale CNFET circuits at highly scaled technology nodes. The channel lengths are ranging from 90 nm to sub-20 nm.
Scientists have great expectations that nanotechnologies will bring them closer to the goal of creating computer systems that can simulate and emulate the brain's abilities for sensation, perception, action, interaction and cognition while rivaling its low power consumption and compact size - basically a brain-on-a-chip. Already, scientists are 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.