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By 17 August 2009 | Categories: news

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The quest for smaller, more powerful computer chips is the holy grail of scientific research into computing technology. Now scientists at IBM Research, in collaboration with Paul W. K. Rothmund, a researcher at the California Institute of Technology, have made a breakthrough in semiconductor advancement using artificial DNA structures.

Developing lithographic technology for feature sizes smaller than 22 nm (the fastest chips today use a 45 nm process) on a semiconductor has long been viewed as a major hurdle to holding course with Moore’s law due to problems with the cost of manufacturing and design parameters.  Scientist are now looking to use artificial DNA structures as scaffolding whereby millions of carbon nanotubes could be deposited and self-assembled into precise patterns by sticking to DNA molecules on chips.

“The cost involved in shrinking features to improve performance is a limiting factor in keeping pace with Moore’s law and a concern across the semiconductor industry,” said Spike Narayan, manager, Science & Technology, IBM Research - Almaden. “The combination of this directed self-assembly with today’s fabrication technology eventually could lead to substantial savings in the most expensive and challenging part of the chip-making process.” 

All very technical but the news behind this is the fact that computer chips will continue to become smaller, faster, more power efficient and cheaper despite concerns that moving beyond the 22 nm mark would be problematic.

The paper on this work, "Placement and orientation of DNA nanostructures on lithographically patterned surfaces" will be published in the September issue of Nature Nanotechnology and is currently available online

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