The latest research
breakthrough from IBM was made in conjunction with the California
Institute of Technology. The breakthrough uses DNA, the building
blocks of the human body, as the starting point for microprocessors
built at under 22nm size. The semiconductor industry is facing
significant hurdles in developing lithographic construction processes
for under 22nm construction. Research is also being done into
incorporating carbon nanotubes or silicon nanowires into construction
The smaller a semiconductor can be built, the
cheaper the parts are to produce as well because more can be made on
a single wafer.
Researchers at IBM have made a breakthrough
that involves using DNA molecules as a scaffolding to build
semiconductors. The so-called DNA origami structures are compatible
with lithographic processes used in construction today. The DNA
scaffolding approach allows IBM to place millions of carbon nanotubes
that self assemble precisely into patterns by sticking to the DNA
Spike Narayan, manager, Science & Technology,
IBM Research – Almaden, said in a statement, "The cost
involved in shrinking features to improve performance is a limiting
factor in keeping pace with Moore’s Law and a concern across the
semiconductor industry. The combination of this directed
self-assembly with today’s fabrication technology eventually could
lead to substantial savings in the most expensive and challenging
part of the chip-making process."
The DNA origami
structures were developed at Caltech and cause single DNA molecules
to assemble in a solution via a reaction between a long single strand
of viral DNA and a mixture of different short synthetic
oligonucleotide strands. IBM reports that the short strands act as
staples to fold the viral DNA into the desired 2D shape through
complementary base pair binding.
The sections can provide
attachments sites for nanoscale components at resolutions as small at
six nanometers. This allows DNA nanostructures like squares,
triangles, and stars to be made at dimensions of 100 to 150 microns
on edge and about the width of a DNA double helix.
fashioned lithographic templates using traditional semiconductor
techniques that are used to make chips for computers today. IBM
reports that either an electron beam or optical lithography were used
to create arrays of binding sites of the proper shape and size to
attach the DNA origami structures. The origami only binds to the
sticky patches created by the lithography process.
using the process are still a decade or more away from reality
according to the researchers. The technique needs more testing and
experimentation before it can be deployed on a mass scale.