by October 8, 2010 0 comments

Nano is a Greek word which means ‘dwarf’. Nanotechnology, as we now know, has become the driving force of latest technological advancements that truly vindicate the phenomenon of excess for less. The physical, chemical and biological manipulation of materials at nano-scale resurges materials with modified properties of color, magnetism and the electric conductivity, thereby, creating a new gauge for human capabilities on the technological front. The miniaturization revolution that emerged from an atomic and molecular modification concept introduced by Richard Feynman way back in 1959, is today driving the micro- and macro-economics of a varied domain of industry verticals allowing technologists to engineer products with tolerance levels to a millionth (10 ) of a meter.

Nanotechnology in ICT Industry
Beyond reasonable incertitude, one of the major
challenges that the information and communication technology sector faces today is that platforms are
being pushed to their physical limits. The traditional means to reduce product size, increase functionality and enhance computing capabilities are
becoming difficult and expensive every passing day. However, the industry is benefiting from nanotechnology in more ways than one. The applications are numerous including those in smarter sensors, logic elements, computer chips, memory storage devices, optoelectronics, quantum computing, etc but
can mainly be classified under categories of
nanoelectronics and photonics, namely integrated circuits, electronic manufacturing equipment, displays and graphenes, data storages and quantum computing.

Integrated circuits
Continuous size reduction of transistors managed to enhance the performance on the grounds of speed, power and cost per function for decades but no longer meets the current application requirements. Adding on, the semiconductor industry is now focused on performance-per-watt than rating it in giga hertz. New material systems and new device architecture complemented by improvised process control have, thus, gained utmost importance. This is where nanotechnology has made a mark.

Electronic device manufacturing
Electronic manufacturing units require demanding environments, higher throughput (number of wafers manufactured per hour) and lower defect rates (defects per The need of ICs with a smaller feature size has resulted in newer manufacturing technologies like atomic layer deposition and nano-imprint lithography (NIL). While atomic layer deposition is employed in deposition phase of a manufacturing process to create high k-metal dielectrics, nano imprint lithography is used to provide insulation layers that separate copper interconnects amongst transistors. The technologies are being widely used in optoelectronics, MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) and semiconductor materials.

Displays and Graphene
The most ubiquitous displays are incorporated in electronic devices like PC monitors, notebooks and mobile phones. The two main nanotechnology-enabled display technologies are OLED (organic light emitting diode) and FED (field emission display). In OLED, the emissive layer is made up of an organic compound. In FED, a carbon nanotube acts as an electron source striking a colored phosphor.
These display technologies are better than conventional CRT in terms of refresh rates (time taken to scan across a pixel) and viewing angles, and also have lower power consumption. The AMOLED (active matrix organic light emitting diode) offer even better refresh rates because of the matrix layout of pixels. LCDs are considered to have comparatively higher power consumptions because of the backlit requirement. Talking about the negative aspect, the OLED face challenges in terms of life as organic materials are prone to degradation. A nanotechnology material called graphene is being researched by Samsung to conduct electricity across flexible transparent touchscreens based on a carbon sheet that is just one atom thick and can be folded like paper.

Data storage
Nanotechnology-based data storage mainly comprises of MRAM (magneto-resistive random access memory), FeRAM (ferro-electric RAM), RRAM (resistive RAM) and NRAM (nanotube RAM). MRAM has the advantage of

endurance and wider temperature operation bandwidth. Other advantages of nanotechnology-based data storage include longevity, higher read/write speeds and lower costs.
While carbon nanotubes can be used as semiconducting material in data storage, scanning probe microscopes can find utility in data transference applications. For example, IBM’s millipede system utilizes an array of AFM (atomic force microscope) tips to make indentations in materials, similar to what a laser does while reading a CD. Interestingly, the Nantero trademark NRAM uses the positioning of carbon nanotubes to determine memory states.

A recent study by NanoMarkets has projected these storage devices to constitute a $65.7 bn market by the beginning of 2012.
Quantum Computing
Nanotechnology is at the base of the concept called Quantum Computing, that can decipher larger volumes of data, clocking faster than current Silicon technology. In spite of encoding data as zeros and ones as in binary computers, the quantum computer stores data as
qubits which can store both zeros and ones simultaneously. This significantly reduces the number of computations required for all possible permutations, giving more accurate results using less power and consuming lesser time. Toshiba’s quantum dot (a stream of electrons in semiconductor with upward/downward magnetic spin differentiation) LED concept forms the basis of optical quantum computing power.

Nanotechnology: The future and challenges
Major nano-technological advancements are expected in the domains of nano-architectonics (science of creating larger integrated systems composed of nanometer-sized components), nano-electronics (study of switching, routing and processing information in electronic form at

nanoscale), and nano-photonics (studying the quantum behavior of light for optical communication). The following graph depicts the emergence of newer nanotechnologies expected in the near future.

The major challenge emerges from the roots of Moore’s Law which states that the transistor density on a processor will double every two years. But Moore’s Law is not just a function of size but cost as well. Thus, the number of nano-elements will not just be a function

of number that could physically fit in a nano-device but then it has to be offered at an optimal price. Increasing the number of nano-elements beyond a point will higher the defect rates thereby increasing the cost of the nano-product.

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