Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Nanoelectronics

On December 11, The New York Times reported in its business section about IBM's development of a new kind of computer memory chip. It makes use of a new class of materials (in the germanium-antimony-tellurium family) that can switch between an amorphous and crystalline state with heating and cooling. These compounds are also used in today's optical disks.

Instead of using heat, the team at IBM used a small electrical current to bring about a phase transition, allowing them to build memory cells that can store 0's and 1's based on their state. The nano part comes in with the size of the switches - according to the NYT, they are 3 nanometers high by 20 nanometers wide. The article doesn't mention how the switches were made.

While clearly a variation of nanotechnology, this term itself isn't referenced in the article. This makes me wonder about the divergence of the nano-label as applied to real, functioning nanoscale devices and the manufacture (and concerns over) passive nano-scale particles.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo for using the term phase transition. I think that many companies will choose not to apply the term nano to products that deserve it while others have clearly invoked the genere of science in a misleading manner. Storage devices have been built on the nanoscale for a long time. Perhaps the advertising people at IBM think that the word nano has been overused and does not carry a weight or meaning that would make it useful as a marketing tool.