Scientists at Northwestern University have developed a new nanomaterial that can “steer” electrical currents. The development could lead to a computer that can simply reconfigure its internal wiring and become an entirely different device, based on changing needs.
As electronic devices are built smaller and smaller, the materials from which the circuits are constructed begin to lose their properties and begin to be controlled by quantum mechanical phenomena. Reaching this physical barrier, many scientists have begun building circuits into multiple dimensions, such as stacking components on top of one another.
The Northwestern team has made reconfigurable electronic materials: materials that can rearrange themselves to meet different computational needs at different times. A single device could potentially reconfigure itself into a resistor, a rectifier, a diode and a transistor based on signals from a computer. The multi-dimensional circuitry could be reconfigured into new electronic circuits using a varied input sequence of electrical pulses.
Learn about nanotechnology innovations that advance electronics.