For First Time Nanowires Create Programmable Logic

Applications may exist for implantable medical sensors but what this research means for circuit design is really encouraging

1 min read
For First Time Nanowires Create Programmable Logic

The typical refrain you hear when some introduces a new transistor design or material goes something like: “Let me know when you make a simple logic circuit.”

Okay, researchers at Harvard University, led by Charles Lieber, would like to let you know that they have used nanowires to create for the first time programmable logic “tiles”. The researchers dubbed the term “tiles” with the idea that each tile, which would have up to eight distinct logic gates, could be connected to other tiles to execute more complex logic functions.

An article here on the pages of Spectrum online has more on this breakthrough and the background research developments that led to it.

Just a personal note to this thorough article and the research, I have often gone back to an article penned by Professor Lieber back in 2007 for Scientific American entitled The Incredible Shrinking Circuit to inform my understanding of nanowire research, so I am always intrigued to see what he and his team are doing in this field.

While Lieber concedes that these nanowire-based logic tiles will not replace CMOS, since the transistors operate at comparatively slow speeds of only 10 to 100 megahertz, their high density and low power consumption could make them attractive for a “controller for some microelectromechanical device.”

Application possibilities are intriguing, but what is most appealing about this breakthrough to me is that it seems to be a major step in the process of leading us further down the road of the incredible shrinking circuit.

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The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

1 min read
A chart showing the timeline of when a transistor was invented and when it was commercialized.

Even as the initial sales receipts for the first transistors to hit the market were being tallied up in 1948, the next generation of transistors had already been invented (see “The First Transistor and How it Worked.”) Since then, engineers have reinvented the transistor over and over again, raiding condensed-matter physics for anything that might offer even the possibility of turning a small signal into a larger one.

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