Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Can nature deliver nanotechology’s promise?

08.07.2005


Computers, telephones, music players keep getting smaller and more powerful, but the technology making this possible can only be shrunk so far. Leeds researchers have won £2.6m to develop the ‘disruptive technology’ of the century by exploiting nature’s ability to work on the nanoscale – heralding a revolution in the way our gadgets operate.



Semiconductor chips, containing millions of transistors, are now found in everything from cars to fridges. However, the technology behind them has come a long way since the invention of the transistor in the 1940s, when they helped make radios truly portable and started a passion for music on the move. The creation of the integrated circuit allowed computers to shrink and led to the electronics revolution that we have witnessed over the last 50 years.

Nanotechnology researchers from electronic and electrical engineering, physics, chemistry, and the Astbury centre aim to combine biological molecules with electronics in a series of related projects. Ultimately, the team could replace transistors and create new, smaller, and more powerful, hybrid bio-electronic computer circuitry.


The number of transistors on a chip has increased exponentially since the 1970s, following what has been coined ‘Moore’s law’ after the predictions of Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. “But what happens when Moore’s law runs out of steam?” asks project leader Professor Giles Davies.

“If you think that a modern computer has 40-50 million transistors – maybe even 100 million – on a chip of semiconductor the size of a postage stamp, you can see how far technology has advanced,” said Professor Davies. “At best, transistors are currently 80 nanometres long.” (One nanometer is one millionth of a millimetre. A human hair is around 100,000 nanometres wide.)

“Part of the problem that we are facing is that as transistors are further miniaturised and positioned ever closer together, they start interfering with each other which affects their operation. Also, the chips become very expensive and difficult to make.”

The solution may lie with nature’s ability to manipulate strands of DNA and proteins, working on a nanoscale. Researchers have already demonstrated that certain molecules can act as electronic components – such as diodes – but the challenge is to bring these components together, in effect a new integrated circuit.

Biological materials could not only act as components themselves but could also be used to build the new chips. DNA and its famous double-helix structure forms when two compatible strands link together. This characteristic can be exploited to make sure components are assembled correctly.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the new research is to play the strengths of the biological materials and the semiconductor chips off one another. This technology will allow two-way sensing and control of signals; molecular and biological signals will be converted into electronic information, whilst electronic signals will control the activity of bio-molecules in a single programmable device,” said Professor Davies.

“For example, biological components could be used as sensors – perhaps sensing light to take a picture – and then feed the signal to the underlying microelectronics to be processed. The nanoscale nature of these parts would mean powerful computing power could be packaged in tiny devices.

“Biology may be the answer to nanotechnology’s promise and, together, could be the disruptive technology of the 21st century.”

The Research Councils UK-funded project is truly interdisciplinary and draws together researchers already working on nanotechnology across the University, including Dr Christoph Wälti and Professors Peter Stockley, Richard Bushby, Stephen Evans, and Edmund Linfield.

The basic technology award will fund seven new appointments across a range of disciplines and several technical posts. Professor Davies is looking for ‘fearless academics’ who are happy to work with colleagues who may have very different approaches to problems. They will be expected to take advantage of the project being based at a single University, meeting regularly and working in each other’s labs regardless of discipline.

Electronic and electrical engineering already has a hybrid bioelectronics lab with the equipment to generate biological materials and handle electronics. A suite of three new related labs are due for completion later this summer.

Together the researchers will become one of the world’s largest concentrations of expertise on bioelectronics with the potential to alter radically the way our gadgets work and how they’re built.

Hannah Love | alfa
Further information:
http://www.bioelectronics.leeds.ac.uk
http://reporter.leeds.ac.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'
26.05.2017 | University of Leicester

nachricht Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>