Will it be possible one day to reconfigure electronic microchips however we want, even when they are in use?
A recent discovery by a team at EPFL suggests as much. The researchers have demonstrated that it is possible to create conductive pathways several atoms wide in a material, to move them around at will and even to make them disappear. Their research is the subject of a recent article appearing in Nature Nanotechnology.
Adaptable electronics is generating significant interest in the scientific community because of the many applications. Imagine for a moment that one single microchip was capable of accomplishing the tasks of several different circuits. For example, a circuit assigned to process sound information could, when not being used for this purpose, be reassigned to process images. This would allow us to miniaturise our electronic devices.
At the same time, it would become possible to develop resilient circuits. Whenever a microchip is damaged, it could theoretically reconfigure itself so that it could still function using the components that remain intact. “An effective way to keep faulty devices working when they are in hard-to-reach places, like space,” says Leo McGilly, the article’s lead author.
Underlying this promising technology are so-called ‘ferroelectric’ materials in which it is possible to create flexible conductive pathways. These pathways are generated by applying an electric field to the material. More specifically, when the electric current is applied, certain atoms moves either “up” or “down,” which is known as polarisation. In recent years, the academic world has observed that conductive pathways several atoms wide – called ‘walls’ – form between these polarized zones. The only problem is that, until now, it was impossible to control how these pathways form.
The Latest on: Resilient circuits
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The Latest on: Resilient circuits
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