Power Behind the Next Electronics Revolution

The semiconducting silicon chip brought about a wave of electronic transformation the propelled technology and forever changed the way society functions. We now live in a digital world, where almost everything we encounter on a daily basis is comprised of a mass of silicon integrated circuits (IC) and transistors. But with the materials used to develop and improve these devices being pushed to their limits, the question of the future of electronics arises.

The Beginnings

The move towards a digital age really took flight late in 1947 at Bell Labs when a little device known as the transistor was developed. After this development, Gordon Moore became a pioneering research in the field of electronics and coined Moore’s law in 1965, which dictated that transistor density would double every two years.

Just over 50 years after that prediction, Moore’s law is still holding true. However, researchers and engineers are beginning to hit a bit of a roadblock. Current circuit measurement are coming in a 2nm wide—equating to a size roughly between a red blood cell and a single strand of DNA. Because the integrated circuits are hitting their limit in size, it’s becoming much more difficult to continue the projected growth of Moore’s law.

The question then arises of how do we combat this problem; or do we move toward finding an alternative to silicon itself? What are the true limits of technology?


Latest in Flexible Technology

Thanks to a development in OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology by LG, we can now roll up our television screens like a newspaper.

LG recently unveiled their new 18-inch television panels, which are so flexible they can be rolled up to 3-centemeters without affecting the display or functionality.

The company achieved this through innovation in OLED technology, which allows for thinner, lighter, and more flexible screens. This technology is also lending itself to the second screen LG unveiled, which is nearly transparent.

But why would you want to roll up your television screen? Well, you probably wouldn’t. However, the bendable nature of the panels makes the screens virtually unbreakable and give them the ability to curve to walls to make your viewing experience more aesthetically pleasing.

“LG Display pioneered the OLED TV market and is now leading the next-generation applied OLED technology,” In-Byung Kang, LG Display’s senior vice president and head of the R&D Center, said in a statement. “We are confident that by 2017, we will successfully develop an Ultra HD flexible and transparent OLED panel of more than 60 inches, which will have transmittance of more than 40 percent and a curvature radius of 100R, thereby leading the future display market.”

High-Density Storage, 100 Times Less Energy

Tired of your electronics running out of memory? Rice University’s James Tour and his group of researchers have developed a solid state memory technology that allows for high-density storage while requiring 100 times less energy than traditional designs to operate.

The memory technology has been developed via tantalum oxide, a common insulator in electronics.

This from Futurity:

The discovery by the Rice University lab of chemist James Tour could allow for crossbar array memories that store up to 162 gigabits, much higher than other oxide-based memory systems under investigation by scientists. (Eight bits equal one byte; a 162-gigabit unit would store about 20 gigabytes of information.)

Read the full release here.

James Tour—a past ECS lecturer and pioneer in molecular electronics— and his group at Rice University’s Smalley Institute of Nanoscale Science & Technology are constantly demonstrating the interdisciplinary nature of nano science, and this is no exception. From the development of flexible supercapacitors to using cobalt films for clean fuel production, Tour and his lab are exploring many practical applications where chemistry and nano science intersect.


Pulse Check


Esther S. Takeuchi, past President of ECS and key contributor to the battery system that is still used to power life-saving implantable cardiac defibrillators

As a membership and development intern, my responsibilities include the organizing and electronic conversion of paper membership documents as ECS makes the transition from file cabinets to e-file folders. While going through the archive of members my heart skipped a beat, so to speak, as I read the profile of Esther S. Takeuchi. There are countless articles and information about Dr. Takeuchi, so I won’t press you with too many of her accolades. While being a member ECS and under the funding of Wilson Greatbatch she developed the Li/SVO (silvervanadium oxide) battery that powers the majority of the world’s lifesaving cardiac defibrillators.

Among the many members of ECS, Dr. Takeuchi stood out to me due in part to her humble beginnings. Despite her origin she accomplished momentous feats that impacted millions of lives. Energy Technologies Area states, “Dr.Takeuchi has been credited with holding more patents (currently over 140) than any other living woman.” Dr. Takeuchi’s continued membership with ECS helps promote and encourage the retention of current members within the Society, and may also attract new members who believe in the importance of this line of work. It’s a true benefit for society that members like Esther S. Takeuchi present their work to the world so that we can all benefit from it.

Let’s see how your heart is doing. Take your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist. Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute. According to WebMD, the normal resting heart rate for a healthy adult ranges from 50-70 bpm. However for people with an irregular heart rhythm, commonly known as arrhythmia, this count may be off as your heart could be beating too quickly, too slowly, or otherwise abnormally. For serious cases, an implantable defibrillator or pacemaker is implanted into the chest or abdomen to help regulate and effectively shock the heart back into a normal rhythm again. If an electrical device needs to be placed inside of a living body, it had better work, not leak, and last for a very long time. Innovative, revolutionary, and life-changing are just a few thoughts that come to mind when realizing the type of contributions members like Dr. Takeuchi make to not only keep the passion beating in the hearts of ECS members, but the rest of the world as well. Check out the her video interview with ECS, or download it as a podcast, to learn more about Dr.Takeuchi’s innovative and monumental work.

[Image: State University of New York at Buffalo]

The batteries have the ability to be integrated into the surface of the objects, making it seem like seem like there is no battery at all.

A new development out of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) has yielded a new technique that could make it possible to print batteries on any surface.

With recent interests in flexible electronics—such as bendable screen displays—researchers globally have been investing research efforts into developing printable functional materials for both electronic and energy applications. With this, many researchers predict the future of the li-ion battery as one with far less size and shape restrictions, having the ability to be printed in its entirety anywhere.

The research team from UNIST, led by ECS member Sang-Young Lee, is setting that prediction on the track to reality. Their new paper published in the journal Nano Letters details the printable li-ion battery that can exist on almost any surface.



Mario Hofmann of National Cheng Kung University shows the example set up of electrochemical synthesis.
Image: Mario Hofmann/IOP Publishing

Graphene has been affectionately coined the “wonder material” due to its strength, flexibility, and conductive properties. The theoretical applications for graphene have included the five-second phone charge, chemical sensors, a way to soak up environmentally harmful radioactive waste, and even the potential to improve your tennis game. While everyone has big expectations for the wonder material, it’s still struggling to find its place in the world of materials science.

However, a team of researchers may have found a way to expand graphene’s potential and make it more applicable to tangible devices and applications. Through a simple electrochemical approach, researchers have been able to alter graphene’s electrical and mechanical properties.

Technically, the researchers have created a defect in graphene that can make the material more useful in a variety of applications. Through electrochemical synthesis, the team was able to break graphite flakes into graphene layers of various size depending on the level of voltage used.

The different levels of voltage not only changed the material’s thickness, it also altered the flake area and number of defects. With the alternation of these three properties, the researchers were able to change how the material acts in different functions.

“Whilst electrochemistry has been around for a long time it is a powerful tool for nanotechnology because it’s so finely tuneable.” said Mario Hofmann, a researcher at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, in a press release. “In graphene production we can really take advantage of this control to produce defects.”

The defected graphene shows promising potential for polymer fillers and battery electrodes. Researchers also believe that by revealing and utilizing the natural defects in graphene, strides could be made in biomedical technology such as drug delivery systems.

We recently sat down with esteemed battery engineer Esther Takeuchi, the key contributor to the battery system that is still used to power the majority of life-saving implantable cardiac defibrillators.

Takeuchi’s career has made an immense impact on science and has been recognized globally. She currently holds more than 150 U.S. patents, more than any American woman, which earned her a spot in the Inventors Hall of Fame.

Her innovative work in battery research also landed her the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2008, where the president complimented her on her work that is “responsible for saving millions of lives.”

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher.

PS: Check out the video version of this podcast and interviews with other world-leaders in electrochemical and solid state science as part of our Masters Series.


ECS Masters – Esther Takeuchi

“Scientific discovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes you’re running faster or slower, but you always have to keep going.”
Esther Takeuchi

Esther Takeuchi was the key contributor to the battery system that powers life-saving cardiac defibrillators.

She currently holds more than 150 U.S. patents, more than any other American woman, which earned her a spot in the Inventors Hall of Fame. Her innovative work in battery research also landed her the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2008.

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You can also listen to this installment of ECS Masters as an audio podcast.

IBM’s New Chip Quadruples Capacity

In recent years, the semiconductor industry has struggled to keep up with the pace of the legendary Moore’s Law. With the current 14-nanometer generation of chips, researchers have begun to question if it will remain possible to double transistor density every two and a half years. However, IBM is now pushing away the doubt with the development of their new chip.

The new ultra-dense chip hosts seven-nanometer transistors, which yields about four times the capacity of our current computer chip. Like many other researchers in the field, IBM decided to move away for the traditional and expensive pure silicon toward a silicon-germanium hybrid material to produce the new chip.

The success of the high-capacity chip relies on the utilization of this new material. The use of silicon-germanium has made it possible for faster transistor switching and lower power requirements. And did we mention how impossibly small these transistors are?


The new structure has high mobility of Na+ ions and a robust framework.Ia

The new structure has high mobility of Na+ ions and a robust framework.
Image: Nature Communications

With the demand for hand-held electronics at an all-time high, the costs of the materials used to make them are also rising. That includes materials used to make lithium batteries, which is a cause for concern when projecting the development of large-scale grid storage.

In order to find an alternative solution to the high material costs connected with lithium batteries, the researchers at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Institute of Physics at the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing have begun focusing their attention on sodium-ion batteries.

The science around sodium-ion batteries dates back to the 1980s, but the technology never took off due to resulting low energy densities and short life cycles.

However, the new research looks to combat those issues by improving the properties of a class of electrode materials by manipulating their electron structure in the sodium-ion battery.


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