A breakthrough in DNA-based chip design by IBM and Caltech could help maintain Moore's Law well into the future.
The race to produce smaller and smaller microchips for everything from automobile systems to mobile communications devices has led IBM to turn to one of the very building blocks of life for help with the process—DNA molecules.
IBM researchers, along with scientists at the California Institute of Technology, have discovered that the tiny components that run along a chip's silicone surface will self-adhere to previously laid down DNA patterns.
That makes DNA an ideal "scaffolding" that chip designers can use to create origami-like complex patterns on top of which they can add carbon nanotubes, nanowires, and other microscopic materials that control the flow of electronics across a computer chip.
"The cost involved in shrinking features to improve performance is a limiting factor in keeping pace with Moore's Law and a concern across the semiconductor industry," said Spike Narayan, Science & Technology manager at IBM's Almaden research lab in San Jose, CA.
Moore's Law holds that computing power at a given cost doubles every two years. Gains in chip speeds over the past two decades have largely been obtained by shrinking components. But with some parts now at microscopic levels, engineers are having an increasingly difficult time building on previous work.
Narayan said IBM and Caltech's breakthrough in DNA-based chip design could help maintain Moore's Law well into the future.
"The combination of this directed self-assembly with today's fabrication technology could lead to substantial savings in the most expensive and challenging part of the chip-making process," said Narayan.
IBM plans to publish a paper on the research in the September issue of Nature Nanotechnology.
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