Self-Assembling Complex ShapesCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 19, 2012 01:13PM
Modern lithography technology used to create microchips do so by removing material and preventing wires from forming in certain areas. While this top-down approach works well, it is limited in where it can go because ever-better etching techniques are needed to continue shrinking the size of the wires. A bottom-up approach however that self-assembles the wires would be a much better solution as it is not as limited in the size it operates at. However self-assembly is hard to achieve, especially when dealing with molecules. Researchers at MIT though have found a way to overcome one of the challenges.
Molecules like to assembly along hexagonal lines. While this works great for many systems, the designs for modern micro-circuitry are based on rectangles. What the MIT researchers discovered was a way to pattern tiny posts that can guide the formation of polymer-nanowires. These posts allow for more than just the creation of rectangles though but also cylinders, double cylinder, spheres, and ellipsoids. This is accomplished by coating the posts with a material that repel a polymer component in the wires. This puts a strain on the polymer causing it to twist and bend away, thereby defeating its preference for a hexagonal shape.
It may be some time before this can be implemented as an actual manufacturing process, but when it is the impacts will be far reaching. Not only could microchips extend to a smaller scale but so could RAM and magnetic memory. The patterning process could be used to identify the specific areas that are bits on a hard disk platter.