‘Self assembled’ CRANN silicon chips are cheaper, and more powerful

A team of researchers at TCD and UCC led by Professor Mick Morris have coaxed atoms to ‘self assemble’ into a microchip, as seen in this image (Credit: Mick Morris).

The public have an insatiable appetite for better laptops, and other electronic devices, but they don’t want to pay more, and ideally they want to pay less than what they paid for their last machine.

This means that the manufacturers of computer chips, such as Intel, and the producers of laptops such as Dell are facing a dilemma.

Up to now microchips that are better than before, could only be produced  using expensive engineering tools and methods.

This naturally creates upward pressure on the cost of making microchips, which, in turn, increases the upward pressure on the cost of laptops.

The manufacturers don’t want costs to start to climb for their products. They want the opposite, and to break into new markets as a result.

So, what to do?

Professor Mick Morris, a nanotechnology researcher based at the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) at TCD and UCC, may have an answer.

Prof Morris, and his team have just shown that it is possible to manufacture silicon microchips using ‘self assembly’ methods. This involves the use of chemistry to prod groups of atoms to assemble themselves into the desired way.

The use of self-assembly to make microchips is far, far cheaper than using expensive engineering tools. There is no cutting, or other tool work required, and small groups of silicon atoms do all the work for themselves.

This provides a potential way to build future microchips with a lot more power, while also reducing manufacturing costs.

LISTEN: Interview with Mick Morris

This interview was broadcast on Science Spinning on 103.2 Dublin City FM on 17-05-2012