Harvard University scientists and the Mitre Corporation have demonstrated the world's first programmable nanoprocessor.
"This work represents a quantum jump forward in the complexity and function of circuits built from the bottom up, and thus demonstrates that this bottom-up paradigm, which is distinct from the way commercial circuits are built today, can yield nanoprocessors and other integrated systems of the future," says principal investigator Charles M Lieber.
The tiled architecture is fully scalable, allowing the assembly of much larger and ever more functional nanoprocessors.
"For the past 10 to 15 years, researchers working with nanowires, carbon nanotubes, and other nanostructures have struggled to build all but the most basic circuits, in large part due to variations in properties of individual nanostructures," says Lieber.
"We have shown that this limitation can now be overcome and are excited about prospects of exploiting the bottom-up paradigm of biology in building future electronics."
An additional feature is that the circuits in the nanoprocessor operate using very little power - even allowing for their miniscule size. This is because their component nanowires contain transistor switches that are nonvolatile, so that once they'e programmed, they don't need any electrical power to maintain memory.
"Because of their very small size and very low power requirements, these new nanoprocessor circuits are building blocks that can control and enable an entirely new class of much smaller, lighter weight electronic sensors and consumer electronics," says Shamik Das, lead engineer in Mitre's Nanosystems Group.