Self assembling nanostructures enable the fabrication of faster and more energy efficient integrated circuits…Since the advent of microchips, photolithographic techniques have been used to fabricate microchips. It involves etching the circuits on a silicon wafer, by removing unwanted portions of silicon layers from the wafer.
You could compare it with the way a sculptor transforms a monolithic piece of natural stone into a masterpiece by chiseling away undesired portions of stone. The only difference between the sculpture and the silicon wafer is, that the latter carries integrated circuits in nanometer dimensions. These silicon chips make it possible for us to create the wonders of modern electronics, and are indispensable workhorses of our information and technology driven world.
For a moment let us consider how Nature creates its wonders. Each component of a living cell is built out of an assembly of complex molecules, that makes it possible for the cell to function as a system by itself. The cells assemble in a certain manner to form bigger structures and systems. These systems then assemble to create a complete organism, plant or animal. This is a ‘bottom-up’ approach, in which complex systems self assemble out of simple building blocks.
Following this cue from Nature, researchers have been trying to incorporate similar ‘bottom-up’ approach in the fabrication of integrated circuits. Under right conditions, certain nanoscale elements and materials can arrange themselves in regular patterns. These self assembled nanoscale patterns are of considerable interest to semiconductor industry, as they help to produce chips that have circuit paths with better electrical conductivity, have faster switching elements and are more energy efficient.
IBM has been successful in making the first such nano chip that mimics the self assembly process in nature. The process insulates nanowires on a chip by allowing them to self assemble around air gaps.
Self assembly has emerged as a promising alternative technique to scale new frontiers in the fabrication of nanometer scale electronic chips. It is also proposed as a reliable solution to self package nanometer scale biosensors and MEMS (Micro Electro Machanical Systems) on a single chip, and provides an alternative to robotic packaging techniques that are currently used in the industry.
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