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Could a Computer One Day Rewire Itself?

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By applying electrical pulses to the new nanomaterial, a sea of small negatively charged ions (blue) can be pushed and pulled between larger, positively charged nanoparticles (red) which are jammed in place. The regions of high and low ionic concentrati

Credit: Courtesy of Northwestern University

Northwestern University researchers have developed a nanomaterial that can guide electrical currents, which could lead to a computer that can redesign its internal wiring to become an entirely new device based on changing needs.

"Our new steering technology allows us to direct current flow through a piece of continuous material," says Northwestern professor Bartosz A. Grzybowski.

The material is a combination of silicon- and polymer-based electronics, creating a new classification of electronic material known as nanoparticle-based electronics. "Besides acting as three-dimensional bridges between existing technologies, the reversible nature of this new material could allow a computer to redirect and adapt its own circuitry to what is required at a specific moment in time," says Northwestern researcher David A. Walker.

The researchers say the technology could lead to a device that reconfigures itself as a resistor, a rectifier, a diode, or a transistor based on signals from a computer.

From Northwestern University Newscenter
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