Researchers at HP Labs announced Monday that they have created a new kind of extremely minute circuit for computer chips using, the science of building devices out of parts measuring 100 nanometers or less. One nanometer is one billionth of a meter.
These new circuits measure less than one square micron and can be used to create memory chips or to augment processors, the researchers said. HP asserts that more than 1,000 of these circuits can fit on the tip of a human hair.
HP scientists believe the use these circuits built with nanotechnology, in concert with current chipmaking technology, will extend the boundaries of conventional semiconductors and result in higher performance processors or memory chips with more capacity.
"We believe molecular electronics will push advances in future computer technology far beyond the limits of silicon," said R. Stanley Williams, director of quantum science research at HP Labs.
Circuits such as HP's could be used to develop tiny memory chips that store large quantities of data in a small area, he said.
As, HP created the circuits using a new approach with molecular grids. Molecular grids lay out the features inside each circuit in an alternating north-south- and east-west-facing pattern, creating a gridlike appearance.
Similar to flash memory, which is used in cell phones and networking equipment, the circuits created by HP are rewritable. This means that data in them can be stored, erased and replaced many times. The circuits are also nonvolatile, allowing them to retain their data when power is turned off.
Manufacturing these circuits is fairly simple, HP researchers assert. That's because they have developed a technique that allows the circuits to be replicated quickly by using a master circuit as a pattern.
HP isn't the only company that is believes nanotechnology is the next big thing.
Industry heavyweights IBM and Intel are working with a number of colleges and universities, with the backing of the U.S. government, and are conducting extensive research into applications for nanotechnology.
IBM researchers, for example, have created a nanotechnology memory device they callthat could hold up to 10GB of data for a device such as a cell phone.