Atomic-Scale Manufacturing Technology


Atomic-Scale Manufacturing Births Electronics Revolution

The University of Alberta Scientists have innovated an atomic-scale manufacturing process, setting a standard for mass production of electronics that are faster, smaller and consume less energy than the electronics of today. The implications of this new atomic-scale manufacturing capability are enormous. In the future, we will see mobile phones that can go months without a charge and computers that are faster (100X) but use 1/1000th of the power currently used for device operation.

Green Electronics – minimizing the energy consumption of devices and technology

So how will this breakthrough discovery effect our future? There are many applications for this ultra small technology including storage, memory, processors etc. This new technology is smaller, more efficient and will present several applications that will minimize energy consumption in mobile devices, computers and data centers.

“It’s something you don’t even hear about yet, but atom-scale manufacturing is going to be world-changing. People think it’s not quite doable but, but we’re already making things out of atoms routinely. We aren’t doing it just because. We are doing it because the things we can make have ever more desirable properties. They’re not just smaller. They’re different and better. This is just the beginning of what will be at least a century of developments in atom-scale manufacturing, and it will be transformational.”
—Robert Wolkow

Wolkow and his team have developed next-generation circuits that will tackle the major issues that exist with electronic devices:

  1. Ensuring low energy consumption
  2. Ensuring there are adequate resources necessary to produce the devices

Estimates predict that if we continue with the current growth trends in energy consumption, the information and communication technology industry would consume 20% of the world’s energy by 2025. Contributing over 5% of the the world’s carbon emissions. Scientists are working rapidly to pave a road for our future of electronics production and usage standards that could bring major implications for our future world.

The new circuitry uses far less power and requires much less raw material to build the circuits. This will improve both the economy and the environment. Imagine a world where all of your electronic devices, appliances and car were running on 1/1000th of the current required electricity. Advances in circuitry and electronics will pose the greatest enhancement to our carbon footprint and long term sustainment.

Other Atomic-Scale Manufacturing Advancements by University of Alberta Scientists

Atomic-scale electron microscope
Canadian researchers at the National Institute for Nanotechnology and the University of Alberta created a tip used in electron microscopes that is just one atom wide at its end point. This breakthrough is the culmination of decades of research by Wolkow and other scientists around the world aimed at creating solutions to drive atomic-scale, low-power electronics. Atom-scale manufacturing took it’s first steps with the recent discovery by Robert Wolkow and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg. With this discovery, they’ve earned their place in the Guiness Book of World Records. Now the team is at it again. Robert Wolkow collaborated with other professionals at the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, have recently shared their discovery detailing how they’ve created atomic switches for electricity, many times smaller than what is currently used.

This animation represents an electrical current being switched on and off. Remarkably, the current is confined to a channel that is just one atom wide. Also, the switch is made of just one atom. When the atom in the centre feels an electric field tugging at it, it loses its electron. Once that electron is lost, the many electrons in the body of the silicon (to the left) have a clear passage to flow through. When the electric field is removed, an electron gets trapped in the central atom, switching the current off. This represents the latest work out of Robert Wolkow’s lab at the University of Alberta. Learn more here.