Nanotechnology Uses to Enhance Computer Performance

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Nanotechnology Uses to Enhance Computer Performance

Nanotechnology Uses to Enhance Computer Performance

Introduction

Although the core concepts of nanotechnology were introduced in the early 1950’s, nanotechnology was not properly introduced to the world until 1974. That was the year a Japanese scientist, named Tanigushi, coined the word “nanotechnology”. Nanotechnology refers to the constructing and engineering of systems at the atomic level. “Nanotechnology will be the major technology in development of every machine in coming years.” (Wifinotes, n.d.) Nanotechnology will greatly improve the functionality and performance of computers. Body

In everyday terms, “Nanotechnology is based on manipulations of individual atoms and molecules to build complex atomic structures.” (Tarasov, 2009, pg. 1) Working at the atomic level is a very new technology. The size of a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. For comparison purposes, “A very fine human hair is about 10,000 nanometers wide, which is the smallest dimension we can see with the naked eye.” (Cook, 2005) Before research could begin, researchers had to first invent a machine that could work with such small particles. Their goal was to manipulate atoms and molecules into a particular configuration – a configuration capable of performing functions similar to a microprocessor. The technology prior to nanotechnology started out rather primitive. It was a major advance in technology when vacuum tubes were invented. They came into existence about the same time Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Vacuum tubes were first used in computers in 1946 until 1958. By then, vacuum tubes could not be made any smaller, so technology gave us transistors. Transistors were used in computers from 1959 to 1964. One transistor took the place of 40 vacuum tubes. When the limits of the transistor were reached, computer builders used integrated circuits from 1965 to 1970. In 1971, the microprocessor came into computer use. Faster and smaller than anything so far, the microprocessor led to the invention of personal computers. Now that the advancement of microprocessors has nearly reached its limits, it is now time for the next generation of processor, which some researchers say will be engineered on the nanometer scale. But, how will they manipulate particles on such a minute scale? Before manipulating atoms into the desired position, researchers had to see them first. Researchers had to invent a microscope that would allow them to see atoms. In 1981, IBM researchers invented the Scanning Probe Microscope (SPM). (University of Wisconsin, 2008) This microscope allowed researchers to “see” atoms. As it turns out, in 1989, researchers found they could actually manipulate atoms into the desired position with the SPM. “…researchers have been able to manipulate and stabilize atomic-size structures in such a way that they can persistently maintain the qualities needed to be classified as viable, though still strictly experimental, computational devices.” (Goth, 2012) Atoms are constantly moving, so catching one to move around was very difficult. The atoms needed to be cooled down to near absolute zero, to -450 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature where most atoms hardly move.

The Scanning Probe Microscope (Nanooze, 2005)
After cooling the atoms, researchers were able to use the SPM to move individual atoms to a specific location. One at a time, they moved the atoms into position to spell “IBM”. It took them nearly an entire day to do it. See image below:

Atoms arranged to spell IBM (Nanooze, 2005)

Since the first manipulation of atoms had been demonstrated, researchers have continued to move atoms into complicated configurations, as shown in the figure below.

Depiction of a nanotechnology produced gear set (Wifinotes, n.d.)

After all the groundwork had been laid, computer researchers turned their attention to using nanotechnology in the computer...
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