HP claims nano-electronic circuits breakthrough

Hewlett Packard is claiming a breakthrough in the design of tomorrow’s nano-electronic circuits. It is using coding theory to create ‘near perfect’ manufacturing yields of devices based on its ‘crossbar latch’ technology. Devices based around the new designs could be far smaller than those based on today’s silicon technology.

The announcement appears in the latest issue of ‘Nanotechnology’ from the Institute of Physics.

‘We have invented a completely new way of designing an electronic interconnect for nano-scale circuits using coding theory, which is commonly used in today’s digital cell phone systems and in deep-space probes,’ declared Stan Williams, the Director Quantum Science Research at HP Labs. ‘By using a cross-bar architecture and adding 50 percent more wires as an “insurance policy”, we believe it will be possible to fabricate nano-electronic circuits with nearly perfect yields even though the probability of broken components will be high.’

The aim of coding theory is to create codes that transmit rapidly while correcting or detecting many of the errors that arise. Typically, researchers implementing coding theory will try to find codes that balance the two opposing needs for speed and accuracy for any given application.

Earlier this year HP announced its ‘crossbar’ technology. However, manufacturing crossbar on this scale requires high precision manufacturing techniques with minimal defects. HP’s researchers believe that coding theory will help them create a ‘defect tolerant interface’ to the crossbar architecture.

The ‘crossbar latch’ technique consists of two control wires and a signal wire that crosses the two control wires to form a junction, with each junction sandwiching a layer of electrically switchable material in between forming a switch. The switches can be made on the nanometre scale and HP expects them to eventually replace the silicon-based transistor in many applications as the demand for ever-smaller devices grows.

Crossbar latches are based on a simple regular pattern and, HP says, are therefore relatively easier and less expensive to fabricate than the complex array of wires, transistors and other elements in current processors. The disadvantage of crossbars is that they require more space on the silicon substrate but HP says that the more efficient manufacturing is a worthwhile trade off.

By adding a ‘demultiplexer’ to the design and coding theory techniques, HP’s researchers found that a circuit would still work even if many of the nanowires were broken.

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