London, Oct 16 : In a breakthrough study, European physicists have developed a unique computer circuit that can build itself - a development that can lead to self-assembling computers.
A team of European physicists has developed an integrated circuit that can build itself. The work, appearing in this week's Nature1, is an important step towards its ultimate goal - a self-assembling computer.
Currently, computer chips are made by etching patterns onto semiconducting wafers using a combination of light and photosensitive chemicals.
In the new study, the scientists took a long organic molecule with mobile electrons, called quinquethiophene that acts like a semiconductor and attached it to a long carbon chain with a silicon group at the end, which acts as an anchor.
They later soaked the circuit board with preprinted electrodes into a solution of their new molecules.
The experiment showed that the molecules got attached to an insulating layer between the electrodes, forming bridges from one electrode to the next.
"We dump it in a beaker with a solution of the molecules, we take it out, we wash it, and it works," Nature quoted Dago de Leeuw researcher at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, as saying.
"The nicest example is DNA," he said.
"Our genetic code provides a set of instructions that can be used to marshal molecules into an entire person, and researchers would like to come up with a similar set of compounds able to organize each other into circuits," he added.
De Leeuw said that the circuit is truly self-assembling.
"The different molecules are like little bricks," said Edsger Smits, another researcher at Philips.
"Frankly it worked much better than we expected," he added.
Hagen Klauk, an electrical engineer at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany found the new technique impressive but said that it still needs improvements.
"Self-assembly and nanotechnology is certainly cool, but the one thing missing is higher performance," he added.
He also said that the movement of electrons through the circuit would make for a very slow computer.
Klauk hopes that improving the characteristics of the molecules and tweaking the technique will eventually lead to self-assembling circuits that out-perform existing technologies, which use thick films of organic molecules.
The work appears in this week's Nature1.