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Quantum Dots Used to 'Draw' Circuits for Molecular Computers

By using tiny quantum dots to create trails of altered molecules, UCLA researchers are developing a method of producing nanoscale circuitry for the molecular computers of the future that will use molecular switches in place of transistors.
“This technology, although still in the unpublished, proof-of-concept stage, could eventually lead to a relatively inexpensive means of patterning interconnections between the logic gates of a molecular computer,” according to Harold G. Monbouquette, professor of chemical engineering at UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, who leads the team.

Research project promises faster, cheaper and more reliable microchips

A project between academia and industry is aiming to spark a world electronics revolution by producing faster, cheaper and more reliable microchips. The University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, has joined forces with Amtel to create ‘strained silicon’ microchips, which involves adding a material called germanium to the traditional silicon used in semiconductor manufacturing. Atmel, whose silicon chips find applications in such diverse products as smart cards and game consoles like XBOX, is playing host to a team of five Newcastle University researchers led by top microelectronics professor Anthony O’Neill. “With this process we can create strained silicon microchips, which will be much faster or use less battery power than conventional microchips” explained Professor Anthony O’Neill, who leads a team of 5 researchers. The team, hosted by Atmel, aim to produce the world’s first strained silicon technology.

A chip’s best friend


The good thing about using silicon in electronic components is that it is abundant and easy to dope with other materials to help control how electrons flow through it. The bad thing is that it becomes unstable at high temperatures, say above 150C. Diamonds are also pretty easy to dope, and can handle temperatures up to 400C with ease, but natural diamonds are lousy with impurities that can ruin electric flow. And man-made ones are comprised of many small crystals whose borders likewise interfere with a circuit’s feng shui. But New Scientist reports today that researchers have developed a synthetic diamond film comprised of a single crystal that may be terrific for chips and such. “In the short term, the new diamond electronic components are likely to be too expensive to replace everyday silicon chips, which in any case work well for many applications. But diamond components may be useful in specialised applications,” the magazine says. Likely uses include flat panel displays, big radar systems and space craft.

Double dose of bioterrorism news

THOMPSON SAYS FOOD SUPPLY VULNERABLE TO ATTACK
The number of U.S. food inspectors has risen over the last year, but Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said the nation is still vulnerable to an attack on its food supply. It was clear even before Sept. 11 that the Food and Drug Administration’s inspection system had big holes, the Associated Press reports, with 150 inspectors together examining less than one percent of the nation’s food. After last fall, Congress opened the purse strings enough to hire 750 additional inspectors, and new technology has made some inspections faster. But Thompson said danger remains. “I still believe that is the area we are subject to a terrorist attack in the future and one that could cause problems.” In perhaps the most shocking part of Thompson’s coments, he blamed the previously low number of inspectors on a vindictive Congress that punished the agency for former FDA Commissioner David Kessler’s efforts to regulate the tobacco industry.

Meanwhile…
DUST-SIZED CHIPS TO COMBAT BIOTERRORISM
Silicon chips the size of dust particles that can quickly detect biological and chemical agents have been developed by University of California, San Diego scientists. As reported by HealthScoutNews, the versatile chips can identify substances that can be dissolved in drinking water or sprayed into the air during a bioterrorist attack. “The idea is that you can have something that’s as small as a piece of dust with some intelligence built into it, so that it could be inconspicuously stuck to paint on a wall or to the side of a truck or dispersed into a cloud of gas,” UCSD researcher Michael Sailor said. Each chip is barcoded, and can be read using a laser detector to see what if any reaction has occurred. “When the dust recognizes what kinds of chemicals or biological agents are present, that information can be read … to tell us if the cloud that’s coming toward us is filled with anthrax bacteria or if the tank of drinking water into which we’ve sprinkled the dust is toxic,” Sailor said.