There is a physical and electrical disconnect between the world of electronics and the world of biology. Electronics tend to be rigid, operate using electrons, and are inherently two-dimensional. The brain, as a basis for comparison, is soft, operates using ions, and is three-dimensional. Researchers have therefore been looking to find different routes to create biocompatible devices that work well in wet environments like biological systems. In an exiting new development, researchers from North Carolina State University have fabricated a memory device that is soft, entirely based on liquid-based matter, and functions well in wet environments - opening the door to a new generation of biocompatible electronic devices.
The field of single-molecule magnets is very promising, since an individual magnetic molecule represent the ultimate size limit to store and processing information. Magnetic molecules are considered very promising for spintronics since they can store a bit of information in an extremely small volume. However, in order to make magnetic molecules work, one has to find a way to measure their magnetization. Usual approaches are often very invasive and may lead to a strong perturbation of the properties of the molecules. A European research team has now designed and realized a novel hybrid spintronic nanodevice where the state of the molecule is measured 'indirectly', through a sensor coupled with the molecule.
One enabling technology for printed and flexible electronics devices is the use of a special silver nanoparticle ink that allow the patterning of silver microelectrodes by omnidirectional printing. Taking an important step towards enabling desktop manufacturing - or personal fabrication - using very low cost, ubiquitous printing tools, researchers have now demonstrated a pen-on-paper approach as a low-cost, portable fabrication route for printed electronic and optoelectronic devices. The team demonstrates the fabrication of electronic art, flexible displays, conductive text, and radio frequency antennas with their technique. The printed features can withstand repeated bending and folding while maintaining high conductivity.
Conventional metal patterning in the electronics industry is done by a photo-resist patterning with a photo-mask and metal evaporation in a vacuum chamber. This technology require expensive vacuum conditions, high processing temperatures, many steps, and toxic chemicals to fabricate one layer of a metal pattern. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to change the design of the expensive photomask once it is fabricated. Researchers have now developed a high-resolution metal nano-patterning technique by combining solution deposited metal nanoparticles and a femtosecond laser without using conventional vacuum deposition or photo-masks. With this method, the time and cost associated with high-resolution metal patterning can be reduced dramatically without using time-consuming vacuum processes and the pattern design can be easily changed in a digital manner without using expensive photo-masks.
Researchers demonstrate a new single element nanoscale device, based on the successfully commercialized phase change material technology, emulating the functionality and the plasticity of biological synapses. In the nervous system, a synapse is the junction between two neurons, enabling the transmission of electric messages from one neuron to another and the adaptation of the message as a function of the nature of the incoming signal - something that is called plasticity. Synapses dominate the architecture of the brain and are responsible for massive parallelism, structural plasticity, and robustness of the brain. Therefore, a compact nanoelectronic device emulating the functions and plasticity of biological synapses will be the most important building block of brain-inspired computational systems.
Germanium was the basic material of first-generation transistors in the late 1940s and early 1950s before it was replaced by silicon (the first silicon transistor was produced by Texas Instruments in 1954). Using germanium instead of silicon as transistor material would enable faster chips containing smaller transistors because higher switching speeds than in silicon could be achieved using germanium. A novel fabrication route demonstrated by a research team in Australia, using a combination of scanning tunneling microscope (STM) lithography and high-quality crystal growth, opens up an entire new area where quantum behavior of highly confined electrons in germanium can be studied for the first time.
A memristor is a two-terminal electronic device whose conductance can be precisely modulated by charge or flux through it. It has the special property that its resistance can be programmed (resistor) and subsequently remains stored (memory). It is thought memristors - with the ability to 'remember' the total electronic charge that passes through them - will be of greatest benefit when they can act like synapses within electronic circuits, mimicking the complex network of neurons present in the brain, enabling our own ability to perceive, think and remember. Researchers have now analyzed in unprecedented detail the physical and chemical properties of an electronic device that computer engineers hope will transform computing.
Ink-jet printing of metal nanoparticles for conductive metal patterns has attracted great interest as an alternative to expensive fabrication techniques like vapor deposition. The bulk of the research in this area focuses on printing metal nanoparticle suspensions (metallic ink) for metallization. Printing conductive features by metallic nanoparticle inks must be followed by an additional step of sintering, usually achieved by heating to elevated temperatures. In this step, the nanoparticles composing the pattern will coalesce to form a continuous electrical contact. In new work, researchers have now demonstrated a new conductive ink that won't require a post printing sintering step. It is achieved by the addition of a latent sintering agent that gets into action after the printing step. Once the solvent evaporates, the sintering agent concentration increases, leading to the spontaneous sintering of the nanoparticles.