Current steering nanomaterial holds promise for self rewiring electronics

1 min read

A new nanomaterial capable of steering itself could one day yield self rewiring electronics, according to researchers at Northwestern State University.

The reconfigurable, hybrid material created by the Chicago based team is made up of different aspects of silicon and polymer based electronics. The researchers believe it could enable a single device to act as a resistor, rectifier, diode or transistor, as instructed by a computer. Lead researcher Bartosz Grzybowski, a professor of chemical and biological engineering, explained: "Besides acting as three dimensional bridges between existing technologies, the reversible nature of this new material could allow a computer to redirect and adapt its own circuitry to what is required at a specific moment in time. "Our new steering technology allows us to direct current flow through a piece of continuous material. Like redirecting a river, streams of electrons can be steered in multiple directions through a block of the material - even multiple streams flowing in opposing directions at the same time." The new material comprises electrically conductive particles, each 5nm in width, coated with a positively charged chemical. The particles are surrounded by a sea of negatively charged atoms, which balance out the positive charges fixed on the particles. By applying an electrical charge across the material, the researchers found that the small negative atoms could be moved and reconfigured, but the relatively larger positive particles could not. By moving this sea of negative atoms around the material, regions of low and high conductance could be modulated. This enabled Grzybowski and his team to form a directed path that allowed electrons to flow through the material. Old paths could be erased and new paths created by pushing and pulling the sea of negative atoms. More complex electrical components, such as diodes and transistors, could be made when multiple types of nanoparticles were used. The research has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.