Editorial Feature

Definitions and Applications of Nanoelectronics

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Advancements in semiconductor technology within the last few decades have been largely determined by Moore’s Law, which has predicted the rise in computer processing performance as a result of greater and greater miniaturization.

The ongoing shrinking of electronics is essential to further boost processor speed and lower manufacturing cost per bit; however, as the proportions of vital electronics get closer to atomic size, quantum tunneling and other effects become increasingly prohibitive.

Scientists are thus pursuing more extreme approaches to advancing technology, including approaches related to nanoscale physics. So-called 'nanoelectronics' appear very promising altering the nature of electronics and digital technology.

The term nanoelectronics includes a broad group of technology and materials with unique qualities so minute that atomic-scale interactions and quantum mechanical qualities play a considerable role in their functionality. At the nanoscale, different forces have more influence than those that dominate at the macro-scale. For instance, quantum tunneling and atomistic disorder are essential concerns for those working with nanoelectronics.

Nanoelectronics holds significant promise for expanding the abilities of electronics devices while reducing their size, weight and power requirements. Display screens can be improved by cutting power requirements while lowering the weight and density of displays. Scientists are also working on a kind of nanoscale memory chip capable of holding one terabyte of data per square inch or more.

Spintronics

Spintronics is the study and application of electron spin, along with its associated magnetic moment and electric charge. Spintronics is an established technology, and devices based on this field of study are expected to have much higher processing power and much lower power usage because they are based on the spin of individual electronics, as opposed to in current semiconductor devices that are based on the charges of multiple electrons. Spintronics also play a major role in various technologies that leverage quantum behavior for computing purposes.

Optoelectronics

Optoelectronics are electronic devices that generate, recognize and manipulate light. Nanoscale optoelectronics are increasingly being seen as a way to address one of the greatest issues of modern technology: energy usage. Nanomaterials like carbon nanofibers and carbon nanotubes are being used in optoelectronics and atom-thick graphene has shown significant promise for use optoelectronic technology.

Including silicon nanophotonics elements in complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) circuits are one method used to supply greater speed of information transmission between circuits.

Display Technology

Electrodes created from nanowires could make it possible for flat panel displays to be flexible in addition to thinner than existing flat panel displays. Carbon nanotubes could be used to send electrons to illuminate pixels, allowing for a lightweight, millimeter-thick display.

Quantum dots are a nanomaterial that could replace the fluorescent dots found in current display technology. Quantum dot displays will also likely be easier to fabricate and require less power.

Wearable and Flexible Devices

The era of wearable electronics is here as seen in the fast-developing range of smartwatches and next-generation personal health devices. Those currently developing these kinds of devices are striving for a combination of physical flexibility, a basic production process, and low power demands. In one promising research effort, cadmium selenide nanocrystals were placed on plastic sheets to create flexible electronic circuits.

Wearable nanoelectronics will go way beyond digital watches and armbands. For instance, wearable, flexible nanoelectronics could be embedded in textiles, enabling 'smart clothing' of all shapes, sizes, and uses.

Energy Technology

Nanoelectronics are expected to play a major role in energy technology, with application in photovoltaics and supercapacitors currently looking the most promising.

An alternative type of photovoltaic cells, such as thin-layer and polymer cells, will reap significant benefits from nanoelectric technology. Polymer solar cells are expected to have high potential, particularly in the area of portable electronic devices, as a result of their relatively low materials and fabrication costs, as well as their flexible nature.

Nanotechnologies are also expected to enhance the capacity and safety of lithium-ion batteries. For instance, nanomaterials will allow for superior separators and electrodes.

Sources and Further Reading

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Brett Smith

Written by

Brett Smith

Brett Smith is an American freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Buffalo State College and has 8 years of experience working in a professional laboratory.

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