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E-nosy Phone Sniffs Out Danger

Nanosensor makes your mobile phone into a portable medical monitor

2 min read
E-nosy Phone Sniffs Out Danger

In the sometimes baffling array of proposed applications for nanotechnology in mobile phones,  we have a new addition with which your mobile phone can detect harmful, airborne substances.

The nanotechnology developed by the University of California (UC) Riverside researchers, led by Nosang Myung, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, uses nanowires made with functionalized carbon nanotubes in a sensor array to detect dangerous substances in a portable device.

While these proposed applications for mobile phones using nanotechnology are often as much marketing spin as real-world, commercial possibilities, in this case it appears that Riverside, CA-based Innovation Economy Corporation (IE Corp) has plans to commercialize the research. IE Corp is handling the commercialization through the start-up it created and funded, Nano Engineering Applications, Inc.

Nonetheless once again the mobile phone tie-in seems as though it might just be a bit of a marketing ploy. Developed using functionalized carbon nanotubes, the sensor has a broad range of applications from agriculture—where it would detect concentrations of pesticides—to military applications for detecting chemical warfare agents.

All of these are worthwhile applications, but I suppose if you want any chance of getting in the mainstream press, you have to couch your technology in terms of people’s smart phone. Detecting pesticides just doesn’t have the same appeal.

In any case, a mobile phone that can detect dangerous airborne substances is similar to the recent research out of Princeton and Tufts Universities in which a graphene nanosensor could be placed on your teeth for detecting dangerous bacteria.  It's not clear whether the UC Riverside researchers and their commercial partner IE Corp will continue to purse the portable health monitoring aspect of the technology, but it should keep the technology in the press while they pursue the various other applications.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper
Green

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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