Een zichzelf reparerende computer ?

Onderzoekers van de Northwestern University hebben (volgens een persbericht) ‘created a hybrid nanomaterial consisting of electrically conductive particles coated with a positively charged chemical and surrounded by negatively charged atoms’. Het onderzoek kan uiteindelijk leiden tot computers ‘that are able to rewire themselves and change the functions of their internal components as needed’.

Het hybride materiaal, dat door het team van Bartosz Grzybowski, professor Chemical en Biological Engineering aan NWU, is gemaakt, combineert verschillende aspecten van siliconen- en polymeren gebaseerde elektronica ‘to create nanoparticle-based electronics’. Deze op nanotechnologie gebaseerde elektronica ‘can handle streams of electrons flowing in multiple, or even opposing, directions at the same time’. Het duurt echter nog even voordat er een zichzelf reparerende computer zal zijn.

‘This is a very, very long way from commercialization’, zo stelt JoAnne Feeney, Vice President en senior analist bij Longbow Research. ‘It took the industry 10 to 15 years to sort out FinFet transistors, and that was just a relatively minor change in transistor structure. This is far more ambitious’.

‘Our new steering technology allows use to direct current flow through a piece of continuous material’, zei Grzybowski. ‘Like redirecting a river, streams of electrons can be steered in multiple directions through a block of the material — even multiple streams flowing in opposing directions at the same time’.

De resultaten van het onderzoek zijn in Nature.com gepubliceerd. Ze zullen eveneens als ‘cover story’ worden gepubliceerd in de gedrukte uitgave van het tijdschrift, wat aangeeft dat de redactie het onderzoek als baanbrekend en wetenschappelijk zeer actueel beschouwd.

‘Besides acting as three-dimensional bridges between existing technologies, the reversible nature of this new material could allow a computer to redirect and adapt its own circuitry to what is required at a specific moment in time’, zegt David A. Walker, een graduate student in de onderzoeksgroep van Grzybowski. ‘Imagine a single device that reconfigures itself into a resistor, a rectifier, a diode and a transistor based on signals from a computer. The multi-dimensional circuitry could be reconfigured into new electronic circuits using a varied input sequence of electrical pulses. The hybrid material is composed of electrically conductive particles, each five nanometers in width, coated with a special positively charged chemical’. Een nanometer is een miljardste deel van een meter. ‘The particles are surrounded by a sea of negatively charged atoms that balance out the positive charges fixed on the particles. By applying an electrical charge across the material, the small negative atoms can be moved and reconfigured, but the relatively larger positive particles are not able to move. By moving this sea of negative atoms around the material, regions of low and high conductance can be modulated; the result is the creation of a directed path that allows electrons to flow through the material. Old paths can be erased and new paths created by pushing and pulling the sea of negative atoms. More complex electrical components, such as diodes and transistors, can be made when multiple types of nanoparticles are used’.

Het proces is hier beschreven.

De paper is getiteld ‘Dynamic Internal Gradients Control and Direct Electric Currents Within Nanostructured Materials’. Naast Grzybowski en Walker, is de paper geschreven door Hideyuki Nakanishi, Paul J. Wesson, Yong Yan, Siowling Soh en Sumanth Swaminathan, van Northwestern, en Kyle J. M. Bishop, van Pennsylvania State University.

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