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Evolutionary approach to circuit design demonstrated

Researchers at the University of Twente have demonstrated working electronic circuits produced using methods which they say resemble Darwinian evolution.

The team has moved away from conventionally designed circuits, using instead an approach that resembles those found in nature. By using such a ‘designless’ approach, the team says costly design mistakes can be avoided.

An artificial evolution approach is said to take less than an hour. By applying electrical signals, a network can be configured into 16 different logical gates, with the approach working around – or even taking advantage of – possible material defects that could be fatal in conventional electronics.

A schematic of a nanoparticle network, about 200nm in diameter, is shown in the image. By applying electrical signals at the electrodes (yellow) and using an artificial evolution technique, this disordered network of gold nanoparticles can be configured into useful electronic circuits.

The team says it is the first time this approach has been used to create electronics with dimensions that compete with commercial technology. According to Professor Wilfred van der Wiel, the circuits have limited computing power. “But with this research we have delivered proof of principle and demonstrated that our approach works in practice. By scaling up the system, real added value will be produced in the future.”

A potential advantage for this type of circuitry is that it might require much less energy to manufacture and during use.

The researchers anticipate a wide range of applications, for example in portable electronics and in the medical world.

Graham Pitcher

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