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The New Atomic Age: Building Smaller, Greener Electronics


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Robert Wolkow with a scanning electron microscope.

University of Alberta professor Robert Wolkow says his group's ultimate goal "is to make ultra-low-power electronics."

Credit: National Institute for Nanotechnology

University of Alberta researchers say they are developing atomically precise technologies that have practical, real-world applications.

"Our ultimate goal is to make ultra-low-power electronics because that's what is most demanded by the world right now," says Alberta professor Robert Wolkow. "We are approaching some fundamental limits that will stop the 30-year-long drive to make things faster, cheaper, better, and smaller; this will come to an end soon. An entirely new method of computing will be necessary."

The researchers have observed how an electrical current flows across the skin of a silicon crystal and also measured electrical resistance as the current moved over a single atomic step. The researchers also have observed how single electrons jump in and out of quantum dots, and devised a method of monitoring how many electrons fit in the pocket and measuring the dot's charge. They say these breakthroughs give them the ability to monitor the charge of quantum dots and has resulted in a way to create quantum dots that function at room temperature.

"That's exciting because, suddenly, things that were thought of as exotic, far-off ideas are near," Wolkow says.

From University of Alberta
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