Nanowires Making Gadgets Smaller And Faster

Computers have been getting shrinking for years, yet they cram the same amount of power if not more. Essentially that is Moore's Law, or the theory that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits doubles a year.

Now that is (or was) expected to halt at some point, meaning our computers and gadgets would start remaining the same size. Yep, no more "Honey, I Shrunk the Processors." But work by IBM could extend keep the sequels coming.

If you didn't know Intel's processors and transistors are about to hit 32 nanometres in size (fun fact: a single hair strand is roughly 80,000 nanometres in width). Now that is pretty darn small, but if we want things to get even smaller, like Zoolander phone small, it is said that the physical constraints in the silicon in these transistors can only go so itsy-bitsy. Apparently, they have even been playing tricks with the silicon even since 90 nanometres.

The New York Times reports some seriously advanced solutions which are being worked on by Dr. Ross of IBM (no she doesn't look like George Clooney's ER character who had the same name). FinFETs are one type of transistor that is being dissected under the microscope and is the basis of 22-nanometre technology which we may see by 2012. These transistors are vertically tipped (thus the "Fin"), offer greater density and better insulating properties. She is also concentrating on constructing FinFET and silicon nanowire switches in a whole new process.

It is a kind of nanofarming. Dr. Ross sprinkles gold particles as small as 10 nanometers in diameter on a substrate and then suffuses them in a silicon gas at a temperature of about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes the particles to become "supersaturated" with silicon from the gas, which will then precipitate into a solid, forming a wire that grows vertically.

Complicated and extremely intricate stuff which is all apparently riddled with significant challenges, but Dr. Ross and her IBM team have got to keep at it. It means the continuation of us getting thinner and smaller electronics in our future. And that is the kind of stuff that makes me look forward to tomorrow. [The New York Times]

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