Canadian researchers develop one of the world’s smallest electronic circuits

Discovery of unconventional nano-scale circuit behavior pivotal to future electronics.

Comments Off on Canadian researchers develop one of the world’s smallest electronic circuits December 7, 2011
by Design Engineering Staff

A team of researchers, led by Guillaume Gervais from McGill’s Physics Department and Mike Lilly from Sandia National Laboratories, has engineered one of the world’s smallest electronic circuits. It’s formed by two wires separated by only about 150 atoms or 15 nanometers (nm). This discovery, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, could have a significant effect on the speed and power of the ever smaller integrated circuits inside everything from smart phones and computers to TVs and GPS systems.

The McGill research marks the first study of how wires in an electronic circuit interact when packed so tightly together. The team found that charges flowing through one nano-scale wire can effect the charge flow in a separate wire either either negatively or positively. This means that a current in one wire can produce a current in the other one that is either in the same or the opposite direction. According to the researchers, the discovery suggests a need to revise scientific understanding of how even the simplest electronic circuits behave at the nanoscale.

In addition to the effect on the speed and efficiency of future electronic circuits, the research could also help manage the ever-increasing amount of heat produced by integrated circuits. Theoretical physicist and theorist Markus Büttiker, for example, speculates that it may be possible to harness the energy lost as heat in one wire by using other wires nearby. Moreover, Buttiker believes that these findings will have an impact on the future of both fundamental and applied research in nanoelectronics.