flexible computer chips

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by andiwm2003, Jul 18, 2006.

  1. andiwm2003 macrumors 601


    Mar 29, 2004
    Boston, MA
    finally we can get a mac built into our socks..............

    but the three dimensional part and the higher light sensitivity sounds interesting.

    UW-Madison team invents fast, flexible computer chips on plastic
    Madison -- New thin-film semiconductor techniques invented by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers promise to add sensing, computing and imaging capability to an amazing array of materials.

    Historically, the semiconductor industry has relied on flat, two-dimensional chips upon which to grow and etch the thin films of material that become electronic circuits for computers and other electronic devices. But as thin as those chips might seem, they are quite beefy in comparison to the result of a new UW-Madison semiconductor fabrication process detailed in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Physics.

    A team led by electrical and computer engineer Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma and materials scientist Max Lagally have developed a process to remove a single-crystal film of semiconductor from the substrate on which it is built. This thin layer (only a couple of hundred nanometers thick) can be transferred to glass, plastic or other flexible materials, opening a wide range of possibilities for flexible electronics. In addition, the semiconductor film can be flipped as it is transferred to its new substrate, making its other side available for more components. This doubles the possible number of devices that can be placed on the film.

    By repeating the process, layers of double-sided, thin-film semiconductors can be stacked together, creating powerful, low-power, three-dimensional electronic devices.

    "It's important to note that these are single-crystal films of strained silicon or silicon germanium," says Ma. "Strain is introduced in the way we form the membrane. Introducing strain changes the arrangement of atoms in the crystal such that we can achieve much faster device speed while consuming less power."

    For non-computer applications, flexible electronics are beginning to have significant impact. Solar cells, smart cards, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, medical applications, and active-matrix flat panel displays could all benefit from the development. The techniques could allow flexible semiconductors to be embedded in fabric to create wearable electronics or computer monitors that roll up like a window shade.

    "This is potentially a paradigm shift," says Lagally. "The ability to create fast, low-power, multilayer electronics has many exciting applications. Silicon germanium membranes are particularly interesting. Germanium has a much higher adsorption for light than silicon. By including the germanium without destroying the quality of the material, we can achieve devices with two to three orders of magnitude more sensitivity."

    That increased sensitivity could be applied to create superior low-light cameras, or smaller cameras with greater resolution.

    Ma, Lagally, Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Paul Evans, Physics Associate Professor Mark Eriksson, and graduate students Hao-Chih Yuan and Guogong Wang are patenting the new techniques through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The team's work was supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, the Department of Energy and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

    Jim Beal
    (608) 263-0611
  2. OutThere macrumors 603


    Dec 19, 2002
    In the latest issue of Popular Science, they detailed a new kind of battery...more powerful than current batteries, that is constructed by harmless viruses and takes the form of a microscopically thin piece of film that looks like tape.

    Now, imagine the two of these technologies combined....yum!
  3. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a


    Dec 3, 2002
    A 3-Dimensional processor? Wouldn't that increase processing power by an enormous amount? Like going from one dimensional barcodes to the two dimensional ones used by UPS/Fedex...
  4. Thomas Veil macrumors 68020

    Thomas Veil

    Feb 14, 2004
    Sounds like Michael Crichton has found the premise for his next novel. :D
  5. michaeldmartin macrumors regular


    Jun 29, 2006
    Testicles. That is all.
    The bigger the DIE is (No, not you!) the further the electrons have to travel, therefore, I would have to say that a 3D processor would significantly decrease the processing power. For example, if your fingers were 200 miles from your head; it would take an hour to move your fingers. (I know; i'm WEIRD!) becuase the nerve impulses only go about 200MPH.
  6. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a


    Dec 3, 2002
    But wouldn't it allow for much more complex logic gates? You could have some processes shoot off to the "second floor" of the processor and run through a completely different set of instructions and be spit out either in the same place or elsewhere on the "first floor" of the chip. Sure, it would take longer, but there could be as many processors as "floors".

    A dual-core chip isn't slower than a single-core, right?

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