These 'nano-origami' chips could usher in a new generation of portable devices

graphene molecules
(Image credit: / Production Perig)

Physicists have demonstrated a process to create microchips that are hundred times smaller than their conventional siblings, and may eventually help create processors that are smaller and faster.

The process involves creating kinks in the structure of the nanomaterial graphene, which makes it behave like a transistor. Often referred to as the material of the future for its myriad applications, the researchers have shown that when a strip of graphene is wrinkled in a particular fashion, it can behave like a microchip, which is around 100 times smaller than conventional microchips. 

“We’re mechanically creating kinks in a layer of graphene. It’s a bit like nano-origami,” said Prof Alan Dalton in the School of Mathematical and Physics Sciences at the University of Sussex.

Image reveals the kink in the form of wrinkles that causes change in Raman signals of altered electronic property

(Image credit: University of Sussex)

Ultra portables

The physicists have published their research in the ACS Nano journal. They argue that creating chips using nanomaterials will make computer chips smaller and faster. 

Prof. Dalton reasons the development comes at a critical juncture since manufacturers are now at the limit of what they can do with traditional semiconductor technology. 

“This kind of technology – “straintronics” using nanomaterials as opposed to electronics – allows space for more chips inside any device. Everything we want to do with computers – to speed them up – can be done by crinkling graphene like this,” he adds.

Furthermore, the new nano-origami chips will help reign in the energy costs of running data centers and the carbon footprint of web hosting companies. 

“The development is a greener, more sustainable technology. Because no additional materials need to be added, and because this process works at room temperature rather than high temperature, it uses less energy to create,” said Dr Manoj Tripathi, Research Fellow in Nano-structured Materials at the University of Sussex and lead author on the paper.

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.