Board-Level Electronics

Nano-Pixels Promise Flexible, High-Res Displays

A new discovery will make it possible to create pixels just a few hundred nanometers across. The "nano-pixels" could pave the way for extremely high-resolution and low-energy thin, flexible displays for applications such as 'smart' glasses, synthetic retinas, and foldable screens.Oxford University scientists explored the link between the electrical and optical properties of phase change materials (materials that can change from an amorphous to a crystalline state). By sandwiching a seven=nanometer-thick layer of a phase change material (GST) between two layers of a transparent electrode, the team found that they could use a tiny current to 'draw' images within the sandwich "stack."Initially still images were created using an atomic force microscope, but the researchers went on to demonstrate that such tiny "stacks" can be turned into prototype pixel-like devices. These 'nano-pixels' – just 300 by 300 nanometers in size – can be electrically switched 'on and off' at will, creating the colored dots that would form the building blocks of an extremely high-resolution display technology.SourceAlso: Learn about Slot-Sampled Optical PPM Demodulation.

Posted in: News, Board-Level Electronics, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Displays/Monitors/HMIs, Imaging, Materials, Nanotechnology, Semiconductors & ICs


Researchers Develop Flexible, Energy-Efficient Hybrid Circuit

Researchers from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering have developed a flexible, energy-efficient hybrid circuit combining carbon nanotube thin film transistors with other thin film transistors. The hybrid could take the place of silicon as the traditional transistor material used in electronic chips, since carbon nanotubes are more transparent, flexible, and can be processed at a lower cost.The hybridization of carbon nanotube thin films and IGZO (indium, gallium and zinc oxide) thin films was achieved by combining their types, p-type and n-type, respectively, to create circuits that can operate complimentarily, reducing power loss and increasing efficiency. The inclusion of IGZO thin film transistors provided power efficiency to increase battery life. The potential applications for the integrated circuitry are numerous, including Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs), digital circuits, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, sensors, wearable electronics, and flash memory devices. Even heads-up displays on vehicle dashboards could soon be a reality.The new technology also has major medical implications. Currently, memory used in computers and phones is made with silicon substrates, the surface on which memory chips are built. To obtain medical information from a patient such as heart rate or brainwave data, stiff electrode objects are placed on several fixed locations on the patient’s body. With the new hybridized circuit, however, electrodes could be placed all over the patient’s body with just a single large but flexible object.SourceAlso: Learn about an Integral Battery Power Limiting Circuit for Intrinsically Safe Applications.

Posted in: News, Board-Level Electronics, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Lighting, OLEDs, Medical, Patient Monitoring, RF & Microwave Electronics, Semiconductors & ICs, Sensors


Scientist Creates Three-Atom-Wide Nanowire

Junhao Lin, a Vanderbilt University Ph.D. student and visiting scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), has found a way to use a finely focused beam of electrons to create some of the smallest wires ever made. The flexible metallic wires are only three atoms wide: One thousandth the width of the microscopic wires used to connect the transistors in today’s integrated circuits.The technique represents an exciting new way to manipulate matter at the nanoscale and should give a boost to efforts to create electronic circuits out of atomic monolayers, the thinnest possible form factor for solid objects.“This will likely stimulate a huge research interest in monolayer circuit design,” Lin said. “Because this technique uses electron irradiation, it can in principle be applicable to any kind of electron-based instrument, such as electron-beam lithography.”One of the intriguing properties of monolayer circuitry is its toughness and flexibility.“If you let your imagination go, you can envision tablets and television displays that are as thin as a sheet of paper that you can roll up and stuff in your pocket or purse,” said University Distinguished Professor of Physics and Engineering at Vanderbilt University, Sokrates Pantelides.SourceAlso: Learn about a Zinc Oxide Nanowire Interphase.

Posted in: News, Board-Level Electronics, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Materials, Metals, Nanotechnology, Semiconductors & ICs


Bending Light with a Tiny Chip

Imagine that you are in a meeting with coworkers or at a gathering of friends. You pull out your cell phone to show a presentation or a video on YouTube. But you don't use the tiny screen; your phone projects a bright, clear image onto a wall or a big screen. Such a technology may be on its way, thanks to a new light-bending silicon chip developed by researchers at Caltech.

Posted in: News, Board-Level Electronics, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Optical Components, Optics, Photonics, Semiconductors & ICs


Scientists Demonstrate Electrical Properties of Topological Insulators

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have demonstrated for the first time that one can electrically access the remarkable properties predicted for a topological insulator (TI). They used a ferromagnetic metal/tunnel barrier contact as a voltage probe to detect the spin polarization created in the topologically protected surface states when an unpolarized bias current is applied. This accomplishment identifies a successful electrical approach that provides direct access to the TI surface state spin system, significantly advances our fundamental understanding of this new quantum state, and enables utilization of the remarkable properties these materials offer for future technological applications.

Posted in: News, Board-Level Electronics, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, Semiconductors & ICs


Vote for NASA Tech Briefs’ 19th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards

It’s that time of year when we ask NASA Tech Briefs readers to vote for the annual Readers’ Choice Product of the Year Awards.Each month, our editors choose a Product of the Month that has exceptional technical merit and practical value for our design engineering readers.

Posted in: Articles, Products, Board-Level Electronics, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Robotics, Computer-Aided Design (CAD)


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