Developing Carbon Nanotube Transistors

carbon_nanotubesx519Since the development of the transistor in 1947, the semiconductor industry has been working to rapidly and continuously improve performance and processing speeds of computer chips. Following Gordon Moore’s iconic law—stating that transistor density would double every two years—the semiconducting silicon chip has propelled technology through a wave of electronic transformation.

Next Electronics Revolution

But all good things must come to an end. The process of packing silicon transistors onto computer chips is reaching its physical limits. However, IBM researchers state that they’ve made a “major engineering breakthrough” that provides a viable alternative to silicon transistors.

The team from IBM proposes using carbon nanotube transistors as an alternative, which have promising electrical and thermal properties. In theory, carbon nanotube transistors could be much faster and more energy efficient than currently used transistors. Nanotube transistors have never been utilized in the past due to major manufacturing challenges that prevented their wide-spread commercialization. However, the IBM researchers are combating this issue by combining the nanotubes with metal contacts to deliver the electrical current.


Simple, Inexpensive Electrochemical Diagnostics

A team of chemists from the University of Montreal have developed a DNA-based electrochemical diagnostic test that is inexpensive and can provide results in just a few minutes. This development has the potential to lead to point-of-care medical devices that can provide results for diagnoses ranging from cancer to autoimmune diseases in just minutes.

Not only is this development exciting for the advancement of the scientific community, it also has the potential to impact global health due to the low cost and ease of use of the test. The new development could help cut lag time and expenses between diagnosis and treatment for both communicable and non-communicable diseases on a global level.

Molecular Diagnostics at Home

“Despite the power of current diagnostic tests, a significant limitation is that they still require complex laboratory procedures. Patients typically must wait for days or even weeks to receive the results of their blood tests,” Alex Vallée-Bélisle said, head of the research team.

At the core of the DNA-based device is one of the simplest forces in chemistry: steric effects. Essentially, the new development focuses on the phenomenon of atoms getting too close to one another and using force to push off each other. This reaction allows researchers to detect a wide array of protein markers.


Digestible Batteries to Power Edible Electronics

Since the 1970s, biomedical engineers have been looking for a way to develop a “smart pill” that can monitor and treat ailments electronically. Since then, breakthroughs such as the camera pill have come about—allowing those in the medical field to perform more complex surgeries and study how drugs are broken down.

While we have biologically understood the concept of edible electronics for some time now, researchers have not been able to nail down the appropriate materials that should be used in such an application as to not cause internal damage.

“Smart Pill” to Sense Problems

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University are putting fourth their proposal to this question in the journal Trends in Biotechnology, which could yield edible electronic technology that is safe for consumption.

“The primary risk is the intrinsic toxicity of these materials, for example, if the battery gets mechanically lodged in the gastrointestinal tract—but that’s a known risk. In fact, there is very little unknown risk in these kinds of devices,” says Christopher Bettinger, a professor in materials science and engineering and author of the study. “The breakfast you ate this morning is only in your GI tract for about 20 hours—all you need is a battery that can do its job for 20 hours and then, if anything happens, it can just degrade away.”


Lab-on-a-Chip Changes Clinical Practice

Biomedical engineers are getting closer to perfecting novel lab-on-a-chip technology. The latest breakthrough from Rutgers University shows promising results for significant cost cutbacks on life-saving tests for disorders ranging from HIV to Lyme disease.

This from Rutgers University:

The new device uses miniaturized channels and values to replace “benchtop” assays – tests that require large samples of blood or other fluids and expensive chemicals that lab technicians manually mix in trays of tubes or plastic plates with cup-like depressions.

Read the full article.

Changing Clinical Practice 

The new development builds on previous lab-on-a-chip research, such as the device from Brigham Young University to improve and simplify the speed of detection of prostate cancer and kidney disease. Researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne have also propelled this novel research with their lab-on-a-chip device that can make the study of tumor cells significantly more efficient.


Solar-Powered, Transparent Batteries

The technology that was created for sci-fi movies may soon be reality. A new transparent, solar powered lithium ion battery has been developed by a team of researchers from Kogakuin University. Not only could this new battery bring transparent smartphones reminiscent of the Iron Man movies to life, but it could replace any transparent items (i.e. windows) for additional energy storage capabilities.

Since a team of researchers at Stanford University developed the first nearly transparent battery about four years ago, the team at Kogakuin University has been hard at work on their transparent battery that combines clarity with self-charging abilities.

Other researchers have been focusing on the qualities and potential of transparent materials. A team from Michigan State University began exploring this field last year to develop a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that can be used on buildings, cell phones, and other clear surfaces. However, this development did not have the functionality that the new transparent battery from Kogakuin University does.


Solar Cells Take Inspiration from Art

One of the more common issues with solar cell efficiency is their inability to move with the sun as it crosses the sky. While large scale solar panels can be fitted with bulky motorized trackers, those with rooftop solar panels do not have that luxury. In an effort to solve this issues, researchers are drawing some inspiration from art in their mission toward higher solar efficiency.

Scientists are applying some of the shapes and designs from the ancient art of kirigami—the Japanese art of paper cutting—to develop a solar cell that can capture up to 36 percent more energy due to the design’s ability to grab more sun.

“The design takes what a large tracking solar panel does and condenses it into something that is essentially flat,” said Aaron Lamoureux, a doctoral student in materials science and engineering and first author on the paper.

In the United States alone, there are currently over 20,000 MW of operational solar capacity. Nearly 640,000 U.S. homes have opted to rely on solar power. However, if the home panels were able to follow the sun’s movement on a daily basis, we could see a dramatic increase in efficiency and usage.


The New iPhone 6S and the Science Behind It

smartphone_homeOnce again, Apple is doing its best to give electronics a huge boost into the future with the release of the new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. The technological top dog has upgraded everything from the phone’s processors to its camera—and Apple has finally brought the much anticipated 3D touch capability to life.

While most consumers focus their attention to the phone’s new entertainment abilities and usage innovation, we like to focus on some different aspects here at ECS. While Apple’s Timothy Cook may not have mentioned electrochemistry or solid state science in announcing the new iPhone, these sciences are what allow for higher processing speeds, improved displays, touch recognition, longer battery life, and much more.

Get a full understanding of the science behind the smartphone.

Highlights of the iPhone 6S:

  • Improved 12 megapixel camera
  • Qualocomm chip to double LTE speeds from 150 mbps to 300 mbps
  • Improved TouchID fingerprint sensor
  • New 64-bit chip for 70 percent faster CPU
  • 3D touch capability through sensor technology

Get more info on the iPhone 6S.

PS: Listen to technology and engineering expert Lili Deligianni’s podcast on innovation in electronics!

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.