A University of Maryland researcher has come up with a method that he says could one day be used by companies to build nanoscale computer and cellphone components more quickly and less expensively.
Ray Phaneuf, associate professor of materials science and engineering at the university's A James Clark School of Engineering, compared his idea to self-assembly processes in nature, such as crystallisation.
Phaneuf has built a photolithography- and etching-based template that nature can use to assemble atoms into pre-defined patterns for creating such things as laptop semiconductors, wearable device sensors and cellphone components. His work has focused on silicon and gallium arsenide. Silicon is the prevalent material for components in computers while gallium arsenide is used more often in cellphones.
"While we understand how to make working nanoscale devices, making things out of a countable number of atoms takes a long time," Phaneuf says. "Industry needs to be able to mass-produce them on a practical time scale."
Such a device could even be used some day in building the "qubits" that serve as the basis of advanced quantum computing machines, Phaneuf says.