French and American researchers have developed a breakthrough in thin films used in electronic circuits, using copolymers, that could provide a six-fold increase in computer storage capacity, more applications in flexible electronics, and better photovoltaic cells and biosensors.
Before the development, thin films used in electronic circuits have been designed from synthetic polymers that are derived from petroleum, reports EE Times India. But these films have limitations: their minimal structural resolution is around 20 nanometers and cannot be reduced further.
“This limit has been one of the main obstacles to the development of new generations of very-high-resolution flexible electronic devices,” say the researchers. The collaboration was spearheaded by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. The development was reported in ACS Nano.
Before new generations of microprocessors can be designed, lithography, the technique used for printing electronic circuits, has to be revolutionized to allow for even smaller circuit architecture, reports AzoNano.com. The scientific team, headed by Redouane Borsali, designed a hybrid material, combining sugar-based and petroleum-derived (silicon containing polystyrene) polymers with different physical and chemical properties.
This copolymer is similar to an oil bubble attached to a small water bubble. This type of structure can organize itself into sugar cylinders with a petroleum-based lattice, each structure with a size of five nanometers. The new size would represent a six-fold increase in storage capacity, such as that used in flash drives. Researchers are now trying to improve the control of the lattices’ organization and design in their self-forming structures.
Source: “Thin Copolymer Films to Speed Up Microprocessors,” EE Times India, 5/17/12
Source: “Thin-Film Bio-Copolymer Raises Physical Limit to Microprocessor Performance,” AzoNano.com, 5/13/12
Image by Luestling, used under Fair Use: Reporting.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.