IBM Claims Nanotech Breakthrough - InformationWeek

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IBM Claims Nanotech Breakthrough

Its researchers say they've found a circuitry-design system that works with existing methods of electronics manufacturing as a stencil to etch flash memory circuitry into silicon.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Researchers at IBM Corp. claim they have made an important breakthrough in the race to design circuitry at the molecular level: a system that works with existing methods of electronics manufacturing.

In a paper being released Monday at an industry conference in Washington, D.C., IBM researchers Chuck Black and Kathyrn Guarini say they used a naturally occurring pattern of molecules as a stencil to etch flash memory circuitry into silicon.

Other researchers are experimenting with using self-assembling, or naturally forming, patterns of molecules to build very tiny circuitry. Doing so is believed to be necessary if the high-tech industry can continue to pack more transistors into smaller spaces--the process that continually makes computing faster and less expensive.

But the IBM scientists believe they are the first to use the molecular patterns not as circuits that have to be connected to larger wires, but as stencils that light can be shone through to create circuitry in silicon. That would make it more likely to work with existing processes, potentially saving money in manufacturing.

"We don't just give a nice picture of some sort of material. That's often where nanotech presentations will end," Black said. "We take that pattern that nature gives us and have done something with it. We understand it and we know how to build things with it."

The molecules involved are a combination of two polymers--one that makes up Styrofoam and another in Plexiglas.

IBM predicts prototype devices using the technique could emerge in three to five years.

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