Naturally occurring chemicals are being used to develop state-of-the-art microprocessors capable of replacing much bigger computers, for dimes on the dollar! Researchers headed by a team of scientists from the Netherlands’ University of Groningen, Netherlands have developed a way to alter the chemical composition of silicon dioxide, which could mean a revolution in the manufacturing industry. The discovery is the latest in the budding field of organic electronics that are gaining acceptance due to their multifold superiority over electronics made from artificial substances.
These electronics are being seen as the biggest developments in the field of electronics since the invention of micro chips. Researchers from the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials at the University enlisted a team of industry-insiders from the Philips Research Laboratories, The Dutch Polymer Institute of the Netherlands as well as the Enikolopov Institute of Synthetic Polymer Materials in Moscow Russia. Their combined efforts have materialized in the form of ‘self-assembled-monolayer field-effect transistor’ or SAMFET.
SAMFET is the newest innovation in organic electronics, a newly emerging kind of electronic circuits which are constructed using only chemicals that occur naturally, such as silicon. Bottom-up organic electronics is a hot topic nowadays among electronic engineers and industrialists alike because, this technology allows the building of highly complicated circuits at a fraction of the cost of conventional circuits. Besides the economy, such circuits are also proving to be much more energy efficient than their predecessors.
So the hype around the invention of this kind of ‘self-assembled-monolayer field-effect transistor’ or SAMFET is well-earned! Although the technique used to create SAMFET’s is complex, thankfully it is much more easily comprehendible. Researchers have basically developed a way to control the shape and proximity of atoms within a given sample of silicon dioxide. This allows them to mold molecules of the substance into a very compact and tightly packed formation. The molecular arrangements are organized in tiny layers sandwiched between another substance such as titanium.
The ability to regularize the size and form of the molecules, together with the capability of cramming together millions of molecules more closely is the key element in this technology. This is so because the arrangement of the layers within a microprocessor is what allows complicated processes to be controlled by a microprocessor smaller than a matchbox! Electric pulses that pass through these layers are controlled with the circuits that are made of these SAMFET’s.
Since the new innovation has allowed the packing of many more molecules into every layer of electronic circuits; many more commands to control and direct the currents can be programmed into an organic circuit as compared to a conventional electronic circuit made of synthetic materials. The developers explain that this innovation has been developed from the same liquid crystal technology that is used in television screens. LCD televisions are able to display better contrast and detail because of the fine crystals and their uniform distribution.
In other words, they use the same technology as SAMFET’s albeit at a less complex scale. The newly developed silicon compound is sandwiched in layers of titanium for durability and strength. The titanium would normally restrict the flow of current but the inventors have come up with another ingenuity to overcome that problem. Contact points that link the different layers of silicon dioxide inside each microprocessor, are made of gold. Gold, one of the best conductors of electricity; allows small electric signals to pass between layers without much resistance against the current.
Additionally due to the proximity and evenness of the molecules of silicon and other compounds within the layers, the smallest pulses of electricity can pass through it without any significant loss of energy. Experiments have been conducted to compare the performance of conventional microprocessors to those built using this newly developed technology. Inventors Simon Mathjiseen and Edsger Smits They say results indicate that their components can not only transfer electric currents through more elaborate formations; they can achieve this task with smaller currents because very little energy is wasted in the process.
This allows them to build ever more complicated circuits. SAMFETS are structured to minimize resistance against electric currents, and since there are no moving parts, power is not wasted in transportation or heating. In turn, one microprocessor can perform much more elaborate tasks to help build multi-purpose machines that can carry out operations that would previously require many different machines. Simply put; a smaller, more efficient machine can now perform tasks that would have required an entire sequence of machines and robots.
For manufacturers this means a ton of savings in their processes. This is so because at the moment even the most technologically advanced assembly lines contain many different machines, and materials have to be shifted between them many times before the final product is made. By combining many processes into a fewer number of machines, manufacturers can save money on the purchase and maintenance of equipment, and on the cost of human resource that is used to monitor and control these assembly lines.
The developers of this strategy are confident they have discovered the building blocks to a new era of technology, one where the size… of the circuit, does not matter! Instead, by increasing the density of molecules inside the layers that make up micro chips, more complex programs such as those used to control robots or entire assembly lines can be programmed into the same sized chip. Coupled with the energy efficiency, which means a lower cost of operating such electronics; these compact processors are being hailed as a much needed boost to the manufacturing and electronics industries.
Under the current economic recession, many factories across the globe are looking to cut costs of production. SAMFET technology seems very promising in this regard because it allows manufacturers to use smaller, smarter electronic components. Not only can they save on human resource costs, but also on the cost of running these processors which act like the brains of the assembly line. All that remains to be seen now is how soon this technology can go into mass production.
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