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Data Storage Technology

Self-Growing Material Opens Chip, Storage Advances 30

Posted by Soulskill
from the that's-what-they-said-about-the-nanites dept.
coondoggie brings us this NetworkWorld article, which begins: "In the ever-growing desire to produce smaller, less costly, yet more powerful and faster computers and storage devices, researchers today said they are looking at a way to use self-growing fabrics that will let manufacturers build nano-sized high resolution semiconductors and arrays to answer that craving. Researchers at the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC) at the University of Wisconsin — Madison have come up with a method that uses existing technology to combine the lithography techniques traditionally used to pattern microelectronics with novel self-assembling materials known as block copolymers, researchers said. When combined with a lithographically patterned surface, the block copolymers' long molecular chains spontaneously assemble into the designated arrangements."
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Self-Growing Material Opens Chip, Storage Advances

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  • Grey goo (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Toe, The (545098)
    ...I mean... who can read this and not think about grey goo [wikipedia.org]?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Self-assemble, not self-growing, so it's not like grey goo at all. The headline is a lie, in soviet russia head lines you, imagine a beowolf cluster of welcoming nano-overlords, yada yada.

      • by Toe, The (545098)

        The headline is a lie

        Right... by "this," I meant the /. article, not the source.
        No edit button though. :/

    • No grey goo (Score:5, Informative)

      by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Friday August 15, 2008 @08:19PM (#24623063)
      In this case, growing is referring to the opposite of "shrinking", that when the fabric is charged with electricity like a semiconductor would be, the molecules move from a deflated form to an expanded semiconductor to perform that role. Basically, they're using molecular chains that can perform more than one function, depending on its stimulus. When it says "Self-assembling", It's not talking about self-building, rather self-organizing. It will not build spare parts for your computer out of dust bunnies and bogons.
  • by FudRucker (866063) on Friday August 15, 2008 @08:03PM (#24622963)
    buy a new 80 gig solid state hardddrive or storage device and the longer you own it the bigger it grows in a year it has doubled capacity :)

    wishful thinking...
  • The editor apparently didn't approve to original article, "Some scientists have an idea, although nothing has been demonstrated in a lab"

  • How about 'self-growing' clothes, homes, cars, etc? Why limit this just to nano tech?

    • Because they don't want something catastrophic to happen, like if someone develops self-growing humans.

    • No problem at all! All that is necessary is to tattoo your entire body with an electrically conductive substrate then run a current through it while immersing you in toxic polymers, and Presto! You are wearing your new self-growing clothes.

      ...and you are a very interesting-looking corpse.

  • I for one welcome our new Self-growing comp overlords...
  • by kebes (861706) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:35PM (#24623731) Journal
    The parts of TFA that talk about "self-assembly" are referring to the recent advances in using "block copolymers" to take a given lithographic pattern and "multiply" it into a high-density pattern.

    For anyone with access, these two article's from today's issue of Science Magazine describe this research:
    • Ricardo Ruiz, Huiman Kang, François A. Detcheverry, Elizabeth Dobisz, Dan S. Kercher, Thomas R. Albrecht, Juan J. de Pablo, and Paul F. Nealey "Density Multiplication and Improved Lithography by Directed Block Copolymer Assembly", Science 15 August 2008: 936-939, DOI: 10.1126/science.1157626 [doi.org]
    • Ion Bita, Joel K. W. Yang, Yeon Sik Jung, Caroline A. Ross, Edwin L. Thomas, and Karl K. Berggren "Graphoepitaxy of Self-Assembled Block Copolymers on Two-Dimensional Periodic Patterned Templates" Science 15 August 2008: 939-943. DOI: 10.1126/science.1159352 [doi.org]

    Block copolymers are polymers (long-chain molecules that make up, for example, plastics) that are designed in such a way that they spontaneously form well-defined nano-patterns when allowed to equilibrate. So for instance a block-copolymer cast as a coating might spontaneously form nano-sized cylinders inside it (where the 'cylinder' and 'matrix' are formed of two different components... the two 'blocks'). Depending on what kind of copolymer you synthesize, you can form nano-cylinders, nano-sheets, nano-spheres, and other shapes (check out this [ibm.com], and this [nyu.edu] for some examples of the morphologies one can obtain).

    One of the problems with block-copolymers, however, is that although they form very well-defined shapes (of exceedingly small and regular size), that's useless if you can't put those nano-objects where you need them. That's where this new work in "Templated Self-Assembly" comes into play. Basically you create a conventional, big pattern using the tried-and-tested techniques used to make microchips (optical lithography, e-beam lithography, etc.). Then you use that as a template for the block-copolymer. It fills in the gaps in the big pattern with its much smaller-scale nano-objects... which are now placed at well-defined positions because of the larger-scale template. So basically you get "density multiplication" of whatever pattern you're able to make.

    So if you can use normal lithography to make a pattern of 100 nm, the block-copolymer can fill in the gaps and give you a pattern with sizes of 20 nm. Also, this "self-assembly" process has a way of "healing" over defects, basically giving you a very well-defined pattern even if your original template wasn't perfect.

    The patterns in question can be "chemical templates" (basically stripes of different chemicals on a surface), or "topographical templates" (physical channels), which is what the two above-mentioned papers deal with, respectively. (Other kinds of directed-assembly [nist.gov], like surface treatments, electric fields, or thermal fields, are also possible.)

    The research is coming along very nicely, and Hitachi seems pretty serious about it. There's no guarantee that this will end up in real technology someday, but I'd say this is looking more and more viable as the research pours in.

    (Disclosure: My research covers similar topics, and I've worked with some of the above-mentioned people on occasion.)

  • I think it was titled "The Blob."

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach

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