The nanotechnology revolution is here — we haven’t noticed yet

Before the existence of the “Metaverse”, before the existence of cryptocurrency millionaires, in front of almost every child in the United States I wanted to be an influencerThe most hyped in technology was “nanotechnology”. For those who can use the refresher, “nano” means “one billionth” and nanotechnology generally refers to materials that are manipulated on an atomic or molecular scale.

For decades, computer scientists and physicists have speculated that nanotechnology will soon completely reshape our lives and unleash a wave of inventions that will save humanity. Things aren’t happening as they expected, but quietly, the nanotech revolution is underway.

You can thank Microchip. Engineers and scientists use the same technology, perfected over decades, to create microchips, creating wonders for a variety of other miniatures, from ultra-microscopic machines to new types of lenses. These nanoscale gizmos seem to overlook the fact that they are so integrated into the structure of our lives and the devices in our pockets that they are a real example of the nanotechnology revolution we have made. is. Promised over the last half century..

Among the everyday items that have benefited from nanotechnology are airbags, cell phones, radars, inkjet printers, home projectors, 5G and other high-speed wireless technologies. Nanotechnology has the potential to enable a dizzying array of micro cameras and other types of sensors that can detect everything from air pollution and black ice to hacking attempts and skin cancer. I have.

Some of this technology is even at the center of the current controversy over whether American 5G networks can reduce flight safety.

It’s all still far from the more eccentric past predictions about the future of nanotechnology.We don’t have Molecular size robot It’s a tiny factory that can patrol our bloodstream and repair damage, or stir our endless copies until the entire planet is scaled down to a pioneer in nanotechnology. Eric Drexler, who was worried in the 1980s, is nothing but “Gray Goo”... “

In the distant future, this technique may still be possible, as vision physicist Richard Feynman mentioned in his famous 1959 lecture.There are many rooms at the bottomHe hypothesized how to build a three-dimensional structure one atom at a time. Achieving even just a few of his suggestions opens up intriguing possibilities, from sensors that can detect viruses in the air before they are inhaled to quantum computers in pockets.

Creating a real nanomachine now means leveraging the hundreds of billions of dollars invested to complete the production of microchips since its introduction in 1959.development Greatly complex and expensive Device. By using the same types of machines, technologies, and “fabs” as microchip factories are known, nanomachine builders can Moore’s Law To make the device even smaller.

ASML, one of the world Major manufacturer Among the equipment that manufactures microchips, CEO Peter Wennink says he is researching and building equipment with the world’s major customers Intel, Samsung, and TSMC in mind. However, there has always been a department that works with clients who want to make something other than traditional microchips and designs the technology so that it can be customized to suit their needs.

These include microelectromechanical systems (MEMS for short). this is, Chip manufacturing equipment.. MEMS has been fundamentally smaller for decades.

I will bring my smartphone. Eliminate all drifting interference that affects these spectral bands more than ever to send and receive the various radio frequencies needed to communicate with the cell tower and connect to Wi-Fi or wireless earphones. is needed.

Therefore, use a small wireless filter. Without it, wireless devices will not work. If the microchip and radio antenna are static, fully solid-state devices, the radio filters they depend on will actually work, says CEO George Holmes. Resonant, A company that manufactures filters. They may oscillate at the same frequency as the signal received or transmitted, or at a frequency that is filtered out, like a cluster of small tuning forks.

Technicians assemble the system to test Resonant’s ultra-compact wireless filters for 5G wireless communication systems.



That is, when a cell phone sits on a desk and streams music to earphones, there are dozens of small elements inside, most of which are shaped like small combs, a few per second. It vibrates a billion times. They are small and work correctly. Only very small ones, where the bonds between atoms exist on a much stronger scale than the size of the object, oscillated at these frequencies and did not oscillate to bits.

Similarly, in order for ground-based radar on an airplane to function properly, it must, among other things, eliminate interference from the rapidly growing US 5G mobile phone network. According to Holmes, the problem is that old airplane radar was designed and built before anyone knew that 5G networks would be a problem.Fix this issue Can be expensive, Because that may mean Exchange or update Some of those old radars. The Fear of airlines and FAA The essence is that the plane can be lost due to lack of enough fine combs to vibrate hundreds of millions or billions of times per second to adjust the tower of a nearby cell phone.

Our phone contains many other MEMS. The system that informs them (and smartwatches and other health trackers) their orientation and the magnitude and direction of their acceleration is no bigger than today’s rice grains.When it was first invented and installed on the Apollo spacecraft, it Bigger than basketball.. A similarly small sensor tells the airbag when to deploy. MEMS is also a rapidly moving red blood cell-sized mirror system that enables home projectors. It is the same as the nozzle of an inkjet printer.

Another example of modern nanomachines manipulates light rather than electricity. Labs have shown that a new type of lens, known as a “metal lens,” can bend and shape light in ways previously required. The entire stack of traditional lenses, Says Juejun Hu, an associate professor of materials science at MIT. The advantage of Metalence is that it is thin and almost flat, at least to the naked eye.

On an electron microscope, the metal surface looks like a luxurious carpet. On this scale, the metal is clearly covered with small pillars that are one-thousandth the width of human hair, protruding from its surface. This texture allows metallens to bend light in the same way as traditional lenses. (These methods Small silicon “fiber” The work is novel enough that physicists have had to rethink their understanding of how light and matter interact. )

A few start-ups are transforming metallence technology into commercial applications.Among them Metal lensJust announced handle With semiconductor manufacturers


Create a 3D sensor for your smartphone. This Metalence application enables a variety of phone manufacturers to achieve 3D sensing, including:


Face ID technology.

Unlocking your smartphone with your face is just the beginning, said Robert Devlin, CEO of Metalenz. Metallence also has abilities that are difficult to reproduce with conventional lenses. For example, to facilitate the detection of polarized light, you can “see” what you cannot see with a conventional lens. This includes detecting the level of light pollution, allowing cameras in vehicle safety and autonomous driving systems to detect icy roads, and providing phone camera functionality. Detect skin cancer, Says Devlin.

Further miniaturization of nanomachines and reaching the theoretical limit of human manipulation of individual atoms requires radically different technologies from those currently used to manufacture state-of-the-art microchips. Then, Professor Andrey Fedorov said. At Georgia Institute of Technology. His team, above all Published research An electron beam is used to etch a pattern onto a sheet of graphene or other 2D material, or to build a structure made of carbon atoms on it.

Graphene and its relatives are already Intensive research As an alternative to silicon in future microchips. However, Dr. Fedorov states that in the future it may also include building 3D structures on 2D sheets of graphene.Being able to do that with atomic precision may, among other things, make it possible to create the kind of structure needed for the next generation. Super powerful quantum computer Governments and tech companies are trying to build as well.

Most of Dr. Fedorov’s research is at Semiconductor Research Corp. Supported by. Semiconductor Research Corp. teeth, Almost all major advanced chip manufacturing and design companies on the planetEstablished in the early 1980s, it pursues basic research that may one day be used in the manufacture of electronic devices. Therefore, the semiconductor industry was pioneered by his team or many other people working on similar technologies someday in the quest for technology that could push us beyond the limits of today’s microchips. It is not unbelievable that technology can be adopted.

The ultimate goal is to be able to use electron beams to quickly remove, add, or modify atoms on the surface. The result is a system that resembles 3D printing on an atomic scale.

When Dr. Fedorov talks about his work, he tells the audience what Richard Feynman proposed in 1959. Now it’s in our hands. “

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The nanotechnology revolution is here — we haven’t noticed yet

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