Post-Silicon Computing

Could Pittsburgh be the nation’s next “Strontium Valley”? The University of Pittsburgh is the lead institution on a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation and the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI) of the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) to bring a new kind of computer out of the lab and into the real world. The goal of the group, led by Jeremy Levy, a professor of physics and astronomy in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, is no less than transforming the way computing is done.

Jeremy Levy

The four-year grant, titled “Scalable Sensing, Storage, and Computation With a Rewritable Oxide Nanoelectronics Platform,” also involves researchers from the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern University. The program aims to create new high-tech industries and jobs in the United States.

“The search for a new semiconductor device that will provide the United States with a leadership position in the global era of nanoelectronics relies on making discoveries at these kinds of advanced universities,” said Jeff Welser, director of the NRI for SRC.


From Etch-A-Sketch® to Tiny Transistors

Levy and his team have invented a tiny Etch-A-Sketch® that draws infinitesimally small “wires” on a surface, then erases them. The device works by switching an oxide crystal between insulating and conducting states. The interface between these two materials can be switched between an insulating and metallic state using a sharp conducting probe. Electronic circuits can be “written” and “erased” at scales approaching the distance between atoms (two nanometers). The device, less than four nanometers wide, enables photonic interaction with objects as small as single molecules or quantum dots.

This research grant explicitly addresses key scientific and technological challenges that, if overcome, could lead turn the “Etch-A-Sketch®” into something real and useful—from being just a toy in a science lab to a possible replacement for conventional electronics made from silicon devices.

Beyond being just plain cool, this device could be the basis of an entirely new kind of transistor.

More at Pitt Chronicle >

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