Copper nanocrystals may enable smaller devices

Friday, 14 September, 2018

Copper nanocrystals may enable smaller devices

Curtin University researchers have developed a tiny electrical circuit — made from crystals of copper that are grown and electrically wired at nanoscale — that may enable an entirely new design of digital devices, with 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. PhD candidate Yan Vogel, lead researcher on the project, said the single copper nanoparticle was used to compress a single physical entity that would normally require many individual diode elements.

“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,” he said.

Published in the journal ACS Nano, the research shows 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. Vogel claimed the breakthrough will enable new concepts and methods in the design of miniaturised circuitry.

Team leader Dr Simone Ciampi said the research follows work published by himself and colleague Dr Nadim Darwish in 2017, when they created a diode out of a single molecule with a size of approximately 1 nm. He said the new study will help to continue the downsizing trend of electronic devices.

“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,” Dr Ciampi said.

“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.”

Image credit: ©Rozaliya/Dollar Photo Club

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