Aussie scientists push transistor barrier

Australian scientists from the Centre of Quantum Computing Technology, have pushed the boundaries of atomic scale fabrication by building a wire only three atoms thick, opening the possibility of new chip architectures.

Australian scientists from the Centre for Quantum Computing Technology, have pushed the boundaries of atomic scale fabrication by building a wire only three atoms thick, opening the possibility of new chip architectures.

"We are interested in the fundamentals of what can and can't be done," said Michelle Simmons, program manager at the research centre's UNSW branch. "The semiconductor industry must figure out when Moore's Law will fail."

Simmons' wire was created by placing single phosphorus atoms in a wafer of silicon using a scanning tunnel microscope. Simmons said her research has caught the interest of IBM, who believes her research may hold the potential for new device architectures.

Simmons says her team have been "collaborating with IBM researchers". IBM has been investigating and manipulating atomic scale devices, saying this technology holds the key to the future of computers and medicine.

Simmons travelled to the US to give talks on nano fabrication, which attracted AU$50,000 "seed funding" from the US-based Semiconductor Research Corporation. The Centre for Quantum Computing Technologies has also received funding from the Australian and US Departments of Defence.

Such single atom fabrication is also another step towards building single atom transistors, the first step in creating quantum computers. While no working prototypes exist, quantum computers are theorised to be much faster than today's machines. This has lead to an interest from defence institutions, as quantum computing promises the ability to crack high level encryption in a fraction of the time it takes today.

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