A major breakthrough in nanotechnology has been announced by IBM that holds the promise of simplifying semiconductor processing, improving performance and continued miniaturization of chips.
The technique called "molecular self assembly" exploits the natural inclination of certain polymer molecules to arrange in precise and organized patterns. This pattern making feature means devices could be made that are denser, smaller, more precise and more uniform than chips made through traditional lithography.
The two dissimilar polymers assemble into a honeycomb pattern, known as a diblock copolymer, with holes of 20-nanometers. This was then applied as a layer using the conventional process to make transistors in a flash memory device. The self-assembled pattern enabled silicon to form an ordered array of 20-nanometers crystals in the transistor's gate, the area that stores the charge determining if the switch represents a 1 or 0 in binary code.
This array of crystal dots could enable transistors to be more tightly packed into flash memory devices thereby increasing their storage capacity. The crystals also offered increased redundancy so that flash memory cards could preserve data longer.