Cambridge, Mass. February 9, 2011 Engineers and scientists collaborating at Harvard University and the MITRE Corporation have developed and demonstrated the world's first programmable nanoprocessor.
The groundbreaking prototype computer system, described in a paper appearing today in the journal Nature, represents a significant step forward in the complexity of computer circuits that can be assembled from synthesized nanometer-scale components.
It also represents an advance because these ultra-tiny nanocircuits can be programmed electronically to perform a number of basic arithmetic and logical functions.
"This work represents a quantum jump forward in the complexity and function of circuits built from the bottom up, and thus demonstrates that this bottom-up paradigm, which is distinct from the way commercial circuits are built today, can yield nanoprocessors and other integrated systems of the future," says principal investigator Charles M. Lieber, who holds a joint appointment at Harvard's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The work was enabled by advances in the design and synthesis of nanowire building blocks. These nanowire components now demonstrate the reproducibility needed to build functional electronic circuits, and also do so at a size and material complexity difficult to achieve by traditional top-down approaches.
Moreover, the tiled architecture is fully scalable, allowing the assembly of much larger and ever more functional nanoprocessors.
"For the past 10 to 15 years, researchers working with nanowires, carbon nanotubes, and other nanostructures have struggled to build all but the most basic circuits, in large part due to variations in properties of individual nanostructures," says Lieber, the Mark Hyman Professor of Chemistry. "We have shown that this limitation can now be overcome and are excited about prospects of exploiti
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