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February 1, 2007

Researchers Creat Blood-Cell-Sized Memory Circuit

Topics: General Science and Computer Technology
"In 1959, physicist Richard Feynman said it should be possible some day to store all of the Encyclopedia Britannica on the tip of a needle," Stoddart said. "We're not there yet, but we're not far off."

[The bluish-grey area in the center of the photo contains the 160,000-bit memory array developed by researchers at the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Los Angeles. The greenish circles nearby are white blood cells. (Photo: Jonathan Green, John Nagarah and Habib Ahmad, California Institute of Technology)]

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have created an ultradense memory device the size of a white blood cell that has enough capacity to store the Declaration of Independence and still have space left over. The accomplishment represents an important step toward the creation of molecular computers that are much smaller and could be more powerful than today's silicon-based computers.

"It's the sort of device that Intel would contemplate making in the year 2020," said James R. Heath, the Elizabeth W. Gilloon Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and co-author of a paper on the research. "But at the moment it furthers our goal of learning how to manufacture functional electronic circuitry at molecular dimensions."

The 2020 date assumes the validity of Moore's law, which states that the complexity of an integrated circuit will typically double every year. Current memory cell size is .0408 square ┬Ám, so Moore's law assumes that the electronics industry will achieve a device density comparable to the Heath team's memory circuit in about 13 years. Manufacturers currently see no way to extend the miniaturization beyond the year 2013, according to reports.

Heath's group manufactured the memory circuit in a cleanroom facility in their labs at Caltech, and the molecular switches were prepared by J. Fraser Stoddart, the University of California, Los Angeles' Fred Kavli Chair in Nanosystems Sciences, and his group. Stoddart and Heath are pioneers in molecular electronics -- using nanoscale molecules as key components in computers and other electronic devices.

"Using molecular components for memory or computation or to replace other electronic components holds tremendous promise," said Stoddart, who also directs the California NanoSystems Institute.

The circuit has a bit density of 100 Gb per square centimeter, which Heath's fellow lead author Jonathan Green said sets the record for integration density in a man-made object.

Read more at photronics.com ...

Posted by Richard at February 1, 2007 10:30 AM

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