New Osmotic-based Process Enables Easier Production of Nanoporous Materials

Applications being investigated for the material range from water filtration to photonics

2 min read
New Osmotic-based Process Enables Easier Production of Nanoporous Materials

Researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory in the UK have developed a method for creating nanoporous materials that allows for minor components used in the manufacturing process to remain encapsulated in the material and still be porous.

This method provides a far more flexible method than what had been employed up till now. In the now old method when the minor component was removed to leave behind the pores it was necessary that the component had to be connected both throughout the material and to the outside of the material.

The research, which was led by Dr Easan Sivaniah and published in the journal Nature Materials, showed that a process called collective osmotic shock (COS) meant that even when the minor component is entirely encapsulated that material is still porous.

"The experiment is rather similar to the classroom demonstration using a balloon containing salty water,” explains Sivaniah in the Cambridge University press release covering the research. “How does one release the salt from the balloon? The answer is to put the balloon in a bath of fresh water. The salt can't leave the balloon but the water can enter, and it does so to reduce the saltiness in the balloon. As more water enters, the balloon swells, and eventually bursts, releasing the salt completely.

"In our experiments, we essentially show this works in materials with these trapped minor components, leading to a series of bursts that connect together and to the outside, releasing the trapped components and leaving an open porous material."

Initial applications appear to be in water filtration systems. While this may not be a groundbreaking application for nanoporous materials it is an area in which there is still an acute need for new and better systems to create clean drinking water.

"It is currently an efficient filter system that could be used in countries with poor access to fresh potable water, or to remove heavy metals and industrial waste products from ground water sources,” says Sivaniah. “Though, with development, we hope it can also be used in making sea-water drinkable using low-tech and low-power routes."

Intriguingly the researchers have been collaborating with other labs in using the material in photonic and optoelectronic applications.

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3 Ways 3D Chip Tech Is Upending Computing

AMD, Graphcore, and Intel show why the industry’s leading edge is going vertical

8 min read
A stack of 3 images.  One of a chip, another is a group of chips and a single grey chip.
Intel; Graphcore; AMD

A crop of high-performance processors is showing that the new direction for continuing Moore’s Law is all about up. Each generation of processor needs to perform better than the last, and, at its most basic, that means integrating more logic onto the silicon. But there are two problems: One is that our ability to shrink transistors and the logic and memory blocks they make up is slowing down. The other is that chips have reached their size limits. Photolithography tools can pattern only an area of about 850 square millimeters, which is about the size of a top-of-the-line Nvidia GPU.

For a few years now, developers of systems-on-chips have begun to break up their ever-larger designs into smaller chiplets and link them together inside the same package to effectively increase the silicon area, among other advantages. In CPUs, these links have mostly been so-called 2.5D, where the chiplets are set beside each other and connected using short, dense interconnects. Momentum for this type of integration will likely only grow now that most of the major manufacturers have agreed on a 2.5D chiplet-to-chiplet communications standard.

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