Scientists working with the IBM research centre are experimenting with DNA molecules, the basic building block of life, to build next-generation microchips, which will be smaller but more powerful than the ones existing today.
Scientists at IBM's Almaden Research Center have teamed up with California Institute of Technology to make scientific advancement that could be a major breakthrough in enabling the semiconductor industry to pack more power and speed into tiny computer chips, while making them more energy efficient and less expensive to manufacture.
For years, chipmakers have been constantly making smaller and smaller chips, which are used in computers, cell phones and other electronic devices, but packing it with more speed, reducing the cost, while at the same time trying to lower power consumption.
Today, the semiconductor industry is faced with the challenges of developing lithographic technology for feature sizes smaller than 22nm and exploring new classes of transistors that employ carbon nanotubes or silicon nanowires.
IBM's approach of using DNA molecules as scaffolding -- where millions of carbon nanotubes could be deposited and self-assembled into precise patterns by sticking to the DNA molecules - may provide a way to reach sub-22 nm lithography.
The utility of this approach lies in the fact that the positioned DNA nanostructures can serve as scaffolds, or miniature circuit boards, for the precise assembly of components - such as carbon nanotubes, nanowires and nanoparticles - at dimensions significantly smaller than possible with conventional semiconductor fabrication techniques. This opens up the possibility of creating functional devices that can be integrated into larger structures, as well as enabling studies of arrays of nanostructures with known coordinates.