New plastic holds promise for advanced optical chips

Researchers have developed a hybrid plastic that can produce light at wavelengths used for fibre-optic communication, paving the way for an optical computer chip. The material, developed by a joint team of engineers and chemists, is a plastic embedded with quantum dots – crystals just five billionths of a metre in size – that convert electrons into photons. The findings hold promise for directly linking high-speed computers with networks that transmit information using light – the largest capacity carrier of information available.

NASA hopes to improve computers with tiny carbon tubes on silicon

The life of the silicon chip industry may last 10 or more years longer, thanks to a new manufacturing process developed by NASA scientists. The novel method, announced in the April 14 issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, includes use of extremely tiny carbon ‘nanotubes’ instead of copper conductors to interconnect parts within integrated circuits (ICs). Carbon nanotubes are measured in nanometers, much smaller than today’s components. A nanometer is roughly 10,000 times smaller than the width of an average human hair. ICs are very small groups of electronic components made on silicon wafers.