Tiny crystals pave the way for new miniaturised circuitry

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A tiny electrical circuit that may enable an entirely new design of digital devices has been developed by Curtin University.

The electrical circuit is made from crystals of copper that are grown and electrically wired at nanoscale. The belief is these may lead to digital devices that have increasing amounts of computational power packed into a smaller space.

The researchers used a single nanoparticle to create an ensemble of different diodes – a basic electronic component of most modern electronic devices, which functions by directing the flow of electric currents.

The research team used a single copper nanoparticle to compress in a single physical entity that would normally require many individual diode elements. According to the Curtin team, the research demonstrated that each nanoparticle had an in-built range of electrical signatures and had led to something akin to ‘one particle, many diodes’, thereby opening up the concept of single-particle circuitry.

“Instead of wiring-up a large number of different sorts of diodes, as is done now, we have shown that the same outcome is obtained by many wires landing accurately over a single physical entity, which in our case is a copper nanocrystal,” explained Yan Vogel of Curtin University.

Dr Simone Ciampi of Curtin University added: “Last year, we made a breakthrough in terms of the size of the diode and now we are building on that work by developing more tuneable diodes, which can potentially be used to make more powerful and faster-thinking electronic devices.

“Current technology is reaching its limit and molecular or nanoparticle diodes and transistors are the only way that we can continue the improvement of computer performances. We are trying to contribute to the development of the inevitable next generation of electronics,” he concluded.