Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Could a computer one day rewire itself? New nanomaterial 'steers' electric currents in multiple dimensions

Date:
October 26, 2011
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
Scientists have developed a new nanomaterial that can "steer" electrical currents. The development could lead to a computer that can simply reconfigure its internal wiring and become an entirely different device, based on changing needs. The material combines different aspects of silicon- and polymer-based electronics to create a new classification of electronic materials: nanoparticle-based electronics.

By applying electrical pulses to the new nanomaterial, a sea of small negatively charged ions (blue) can be pushed and pulled between larger, positively charged nanoparticles (red) which are "jammed" in place. The regions of high and low ionic concentration allow for the material to become either more or less conductive in those areas. By controlling how the ions are distributed, one can control how current flows between electrodes.
Credit: Northwestern University

Scientists at Northwestern University have developed a new nanomaterial that can "steer" electrical currents. The development could lead to a computer that can simply reconfigure its internal wiring and become an entirely different device, based on changing needs.

As electronic devices are built smaller and smaller, the materials from which the circuits are constructed begin to lose their properties and begin to be controlled by quantum mechanical phenomena. Reaching this physical barrier, many scientists have begun building circuits into multiple dimensions, such as stacking components on top of one another.

The Northwestern team has taken a fundamentally different approach. They have made reconfigurable electronic materials: materials that can rearrange themselves to meet different computational needs at different times.

"Our new steering technology allows use to direct current flow through a piece of continuous material," said Bartosz A. Grzybowski, who led the research. "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."

Grzybowski is professor of chemical and biological engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The Northwestern material combines different aspects of silicon- and polymer-based electronics to create a new classification of electronic materials: nanoparticle-based electronics.

The study, in which the authors report making preliminary electronic components with the hybrid material, will be published online Oct. 16 by the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The research also will be published as the cover story in the November print issue of the journal.

"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," said David A. Walker, an author of the study and a graduate student in Grzybowski's research group.

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. (A nanometer is a billionth of a 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.

The title of the paper is "Dynamic Internal Gradients Control and Direct Electric Currents Within Nanostructured Materials." In addition to Grzybowski and Walker, other authors are Hideyuki Nakanishi, Paul J. Wesson, Yong Yan, Siowling Soh and Sumanth Swaminathan, from Northwestern, and Kyle J. M. Bishop, a former member of the Grzybowski research group, now with Pennsylvania State University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hideyuki Nakanishi, David A. Walker, Kyle J. M. Bishop, Paul J. Wesson, Yong Yan, Siowling Soh, Sumanth Swaminathan, Bartosz A. Grzybowski. Dynamic internal gradients control and direct electric currents within nanostructured materials. Nature Nanotechnology, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2011.165

Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Could a computer one day rewire itself? New nanomaterial 'steers' electric currents in multiple dimensions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111016132046.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2011, October 26). Could a computer one day rewire itself? New nanomaterial 'steers' electric currents in multiple dimensions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111016132046.htm
Northwestern University. "Could a computer one day rewire itself? New nanomaterial 'steers' electric currents in multiple dimensions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111016132046.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

AFP (Apr. 17, 2014) It walks and runs, even up and down stairs. It can open a bottle and serve a drink, and politely tries to shake hands with a stranger. Meet the latest ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) German researchers have used a fake fingerprint made from glue to bypass the fingerprint security system on Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

TheStreet (Apr. 16, 2014) The Porsche Spyder 918 proves that, in an automotive world obsessed with fuel efficiency, the supercar is not dead. Porsche North America CEO Detlev von Platen attributes the brand's consistent sales growth -- 21% in 2013 -- with an investment in new technology and expanded performance dynamics. The hybrid Spyder 918 has 887 horsepower and 944 lb-ft of torque, but it can run 18 miles on just an electric charge. The $845,000 vehicle is not a consumer-targeted vehicle but a brand statement. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins