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Next-generation nanoelectronics: A decade of progress, coming advances
Date:5/3/2012

Traditional silicon-based integrated circuits are found in many applications, from large data servers to cars to cell phones. Their widespread integration is due in part to the semiconductor industry's ability to continue to deliver reliable and scalable performance for decades.

However, while silicon-based circuits continue to shrink in size in the relentless pursuit of Moore's Law the prediction that the number of transistors that can fit on an integrated circuit doubles every two years power consumption is rising rapidly. In addition, conventional silicon electronics do not function well in extreme environments such as high temperatures or radiation.

In an effort to sustain the advance of these devices while curbing power consumption, diverse research communities are looking for hybrid or alternative technologies. Nanoelectromechanical (NEM) switch technology is one option that shows great promise.

"NEM switches consist of a nanostructure (such as a carbon nanotube or nanowire) that deflects mechanically under electrostatic forces to make or break contact with an electrode," said Horacio Espinosa, James N. and Nancy J. Farley Professor in Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University.

NEM switches, which can be designed to function like a silicon transistor, could be used either in standalone or hybrid NEM-silicon devices. They offer both ultra-low power consumption and a strong tolerance of high temperatures and radiation exposure.

Given their potential, the past decade has seen significant attention to the development of both hybrid and standalone NEM devices. This decade of progress is reviewed by Espinosa's group in the current issue of journal Nature Nanotechnology. Their review provides a comprehensive discussion of the potential of these technologies, as well as the primary challenges associated with adopting them.

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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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