Molecular transistors to help tablets replace laptops

As long as 15 years ago, experts already understood that hardware constraints would limit the miniaturization of electronic devices.

An educational application on an iPad 311 (R) (photo credit: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters)
An educational application on an iPad 311 (R)
(photo credit: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters)
Smartphones and tablet computers are considered the hardware of the postpersonal- computer future, but they have a number of limitations, including limited RAM (random access memory), which reduces the number of applications that can be used simultaneously. This even causes battery-operated devices to empty out too fast. RAM devices are large and thus use a lot of power, so they don’t operate well as mobile devices.
Standard tabletop computers that plug into the wall and laptop computers that use large, rechargeable batteries currently have the advantage over smartphones and tablet computers. But these will inevitably replace tabletops and laptops because they are rapidly closing the technological gap in computing ability and storage capacity.
A Tel Aviv University researcher recently found a clever solution to these problems.
Doctoral student Elad Mentovich, under the supervision of Dr. Shachar Richter of the chemistry department and the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, explained that the continuing miniaturization of silicon technology has made it difficult to build large computer memory, especially because of the difficulty in miniaturizing the capacitors used to store the data.
Mantovich used carbon molecules called 60C (meaning 60 carbon atoms) to build a tiny, sophisticated memory transistor that is able to transfer and store energy and completely eliminate the need for a capacitor. It can store both an electric charge and information at the same time A capacitor (originally known as a condenser) is a passive two-terminal electrical component used to store energy in an electric field.
It is widely used as parts of electrical circuits in many common electrical devices.
As long as 15 years ago, experts already understood that hardware constraints would limit the miniaturization of electronic devices.
The idea of a smart transistor that could eliminate the need for capacitors was suggested.
The molecular memory transistor, which can be produced at a size of five nanometers, stores data and sends it at high speed. The innovative development, which is manufactured under standard procedures, could be manufactured at existing hi-tech factories.
Large companies in the industry are showing interest in the TAU technology, said Mantovich, who in May received first prize at a European conference on materials research and published his findings in the journal Advanced Materials and Applied Physics Letters.
He noted that in 2012, major technology companies for the first time sold more tablets and smartphones than laptops of all types.
“When the new molecular transistors are integrated into the devices of the future, one will be able to run many applications simultaneously,” he said. There will be much-reduced electricity use, much more memory and longer battery life.
The next step is to find a fabrication facility that could make the new transistors. One of the advantages of molecular memory is that it can be made almost anywhere, using standard equipment and using innovative assembly techniques that Mantovich himself developed.
“The distance from application is not great.” he said.
The world’s first laboratory for the integration of tiny systems has been launched at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem at a cost of $1.25 million. The Miniature Integrated Systems Laboratory at the Broide Center for Innovating Engineering and Computer Science was donated by Canadian Friends of HU and the family of Peter Broide.
Staffers will explore the dynamics of complex circuits that are constructed by multitudes of integrated nano/micro devices.
The lab will provide the technological infrastructure and knowledge necessary to integrate micro/nano devices into a functioning circuit that can be organically interfaced with cyberspace.
A unique feature of the laboratory will be to enable the construction of structures and devices using novel material systems that are not within the paradigm of current research in nanoscience and therefore are not allowed in conventional nano-centers. In particular, the laboratory will provide expertise in microfluidics, and micro/nano electromechanical systems fabrications (MEMS & NEMS). Both microfluidics and MEMS are essential tools for the biomedical engineer.
The lab will be the ideal platform for transforming basic research in nanoscience into viable microsystems, and will also provide the infrastructure for combining these circuits with computing elements to form the basic modules of the cyberspace of the future.
An example of the cutting-edge research that will be enabled by the laboratory is the exploration of potential physical chassis for quantum computing. HU said the lab will provide hands-on experience to undergrad engineering students in the techniques that are being employed in nanoscience and nanotechnology R&D and in the microelectronics and optoelectronics industry.
Broide was one of founders of Eicon Technology Corporation, a pioneer in computerization and networks that became the fourthlargest firm in software in Canada and functioned in 70 countries around the world. He was also a donor to the Montreal Jewish community.