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Nanoprocessor evolves from SiGe nanowire arrays

Posted: 17 Feb 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:programmable nanowire processor  nanowire arrays  SiGe nanowires 

Harvard University researchers in collaboration with Mitre Corp. found that nanowire arrays made out of silicon-germanium packed more arithmetic and logic per square inch than conventional semiconductors.

The Harvard-Mitre nanowire arrays that demonstrated basic ALU functionality were billed as the world's first programmable nanoprocessor.

Produced by the laboratory of Charles Liber—an admirer of the legendary Richard Feynman—the ultra-tiny nanocircuits were composed of 30nm thick, oxide-insulated wires, which were constructed into hierarchically arranged tile-like patterns that can be scaled for any-sized problem. The crossbar wire arrays performed both operations and memory functions, since the state of nanowire FETs was non-volatile.

Lieber claimed that the nanowire processing functions also consumed less power than conventional circuits, which must constantly be powered to retain memory functions. Next, the researchers hope to demonstrate the kind of control functions needed to organise the nanoprocessors into an architecture to enable smart sensors and CE devices to be fabricated with SiGe nanowires.

Funding for the project was provided by a faculty fellowship from the U.S. Department of Defence National Security Science and Engineering, the NanoEnabled Technology Initiative and the Mitre Innovation Programme.

Nanowire processor

Figure 1: Scanning electron microscopy image of a programmable nanowire nanoprocessor super-imposed on a schematic nanoprocessor circuit architecture.

- R. Colin Johnson
  EE Times

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