Researchers at CRANN, the Science Foundation Ireland funded nanoscience institute based at Trinity College Dublin, and partners at University College Cork, have conducted research to develop materials that could in time revolutionise the manufacture of silicon chips and lead to a new wave of next generation computers and real time 3D video processing. The research was published in Nanoscale, which publishes content from leading international research groups.
Assisted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin and Intel's Researchers in Residence based in CRANN, Professor Mick Morris of UCC has developed a greater understanding of the assembling properties of block copolymers. Block copolymers play a role in a number of everyday materials, for example in materials such as spandex and rubber shoe-soles. They consist of repeating structural units and can form highly regular column-like and linear structures.
Professor Morris and his team electrically characterised large areas of nano-electronic devices, which were created by the self-assembly of block copolymers. It is this discovery that could prove to be an alternative to silicon device manufacturing which is the cornerstone of the electronics world.
With the costs of silicon device manufacturing increasing dramatically, this research could be developed to allow cost-effective production of devices of the smallest possible size by cutting out the need for expensive manufacturing tools. This is critical in the drive by industry to reduce size whilst increasing capacity and functionality of electronic devices. The techniques and materials used in the research are consistent with modern microelectronic fabrication and could be used in industry, such as in the manufacturing of next generation devices by Intel.
Commenting on the research, Prof Mick Morris said, "The potential of our research is extremely exciting and reflects many years of hard work. This is the first time that anyone has demonstrated that large areas of nano-electronic devices can be developed in this fashion and highlights a pathway to commercial applications. I am looking forward to exploring commercial opportunities to further advance our work."
Dr. Diarmuid O'Brien, Executive Director of CRANN, said, "This new research underlines the potential impact of nanoscience in terms of revolutionising a number of industries. This latest publication reflects the world class research being undertaken at CRANN, where we published over 150 research papers last year alone, contributing to Ireland's ranking as 8th globally for materials science research. It will also help us attract more foreign direct investment to Ireland through our industry engagement programme which includes companies like Intel and Hewlett Packard."
This work was funded by SFI under the CSET programme and by EU FP7 support (Lamand). Prof. Morris, is coordinating the project, which involves 3 companies and 6 research partners across 7 European countries. This project is a combination of two of the five drivers recognised as critical to the future competitiveness of the European economy - nanoelectronics and nanotechnology.