The use of nanowires and tubes has been touted for some time now. This latest step forward seems to add credibility that this form of computer design will eventually come to fruition – Deskarati
A team led by Charles Lieber, a professor of chemistry at Harvard, and Shamik Das, lead engineer in MITRE’s nanosystems group, has designed and built a reprogrammable circuit out of nanowire transistors. Several tiles wired together would make the first scalable nanowire computer, says Lieber. Such a device could run inside microscopic, implantable biosensors, and ultra-low-power environmental or structural sensors, say the researchers.
For more than a decade, nanowires and nanotubes have promised to shrink computing to scales impossible to achieve with traditional semiconductor materials. But there have been doubts about the practicality of nanowires and nanotubes as actual computing systems. “There had been little progress in terms of increasing the complexity of circuits,” says Lieber.
One big problem has been reproducing structures made from nanowires and nanotubes reliably. Each structure needs to be virtually identical to ensure that a circuit operates as intended. But now, says Lieber, some of those problems are being solved. His group, in particular, has developed ways to produce identical nanowires in bulk. Because of this, he and colleagues at MITRE have been able to design a nanowire circuit architecture that has the potential to scale up. The details are published in the current issue of Nature.