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Synthetic Biology Ramps Semiconductors


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Conductive metal-semiconductor interconnects at sub-five-nanometer line widths could use DNA-templates to guide their self-assembly.

Six universities will collaborate on the Semiconductor Synthetic Biology program over the next three years.

Credit: SRC

The initial phase of the Semiconductor Synthetic Biology program will distribute $2.25 million in funding over three years to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Yale University, Georgia Tech, Brigham Young University, University of Massachusetts, and University of Washington.

As part of the project, synthetic biology will be used to re-engineer materials for useful purposes in the fabrication of advanced semiconductors. The long-term goal of the project is inventing new types of living cells that can be integrated into hybrid biological semiconductors.

"Cells compute with chemistry and semiconductors compute with transistors--but both are about the controlled flow of electrons," says MIT professor Rahul Sarpeshkar.

A second area of research is cytomorphic-semiconductor circuit design, which applies a recent understanding of cell biology to new ultra-low-power microchip architecture. "One of the main goals of this program is to create information processors with energy consumption 100- to 1,000-times less than today," says Semiconductor Research Corp.'s Victor Zhimov.

A third area of research will explore new bio-electric sensors, actuators, and energy sources that integrate biological materials onto complementary metal-oxide chips to create hybrid bio-semiconductors. "Our goal...is to integrate living cells on a semiconductor chip and let them work together--the holy grail being to use living cells as computers," Zhimov says.

From EE Times
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