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Push-Button Logic on the Nanoscale

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Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have used zinc oxide in the form of a nanowire to create smaller and simpler logic circuits. Zinc oxide was used as both the button and circuit for the first time. The material has piezoelectric and semiconductor properties. The piezoelectric effect occurs when a strain on a material reversibly changes the crystal structure in one direction enough to make an electric field.

strain-gated logic illustration Using zinc oxide as both the button and the circuit, scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created tiny logic circuits that couldbe used as the basis of nanometer-scale robotics and processors.Credit:
Georgia Tech professor Zhong Lin Wang used a zinc oxide nanowire with a diameter of 300 nanometers and a length of 400 micrometers to produce a tiny transistor, which is gated by the strain applied to the nanowire. Wang and colleagues say such transistors can be combined in various arrangements to create systems that process the basic logic functions as well as act as multiplexers and demultiplexors. Wang sees the technology and complementary metal-oxide-semiconductors as being complementary. He says the technology could have applications in nanorobotics, transducers, micromachines, human-computer interfacing, and microfluidics.

Wang's team plans to join the new strain-gated transducers to sensors and energy-drawing components to make "self-sustainable, all-nanowire-based, multifunctional, self-powered autonomous intelligent nanoscale systems."

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