3D microchip for efficient working of technological devices

New microchip helps to take information in three dimensions (Credit: LindenArtWork)Scientists have successfully developed a 3D microchip that has the ability to move information not only from left to right or front to back but also up and down.

This research has been published online in the journal Nature.

Researchers are of the opinion that 3D microchip will have more storage capacity by allowing information to be spread across several layers instead of one layer as in the case of traditional chips.

Back in May, 2011, Intel claimed that it has made the new 3D dimensional transistor design. The invention was considered as the most significant in the last 60 years. The company uses miniscule fins attaching to the surface of the flat transistors.

The same year in September IBM and 3M joined hands to develop 3D microchips.

Then in February 2012, scientists from MIT designed Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) silicon based device with 3D sensing capabilities.

And now, there is another innovative news of 3D microchips.

“Today’s chips are like bungalows – everything happens on the same floor. We’ve created the stairways allowing information to pass between floors.” Dr Reinoud Lavrijsen, an author on the paper from the University of Cambridge, said in a statement.

Scientists in this study used spintronic chip, a special type of microchip that exploits the electron’s tiny magnetic moment or ‘spin’ (unlike many of the traditional chips that use charge-based electronic technology). Spintronic chips are thought to become the standard memory chip in the next few years as they are increasingly being used in computers.

Scientists used the experimental technique called as “sputtering” to develop the microchip. Sputtering is the ejection of atoms from a solid surface after bombardment of the energetic particles. They made different layers of cobalt, platinum and ruthenium atoms on silicon chip for storage of information. Different parts were attached with few atoms. In order to probe the data content of the different layers, they used a technique called MOKE. They saw, in the MOKE signals, the movement of data from one layer to another, after switching on and off of the magnetic field.

Professor Russell Cowburn, lead researcher of the study from the Cavendish Laboratory, the University of Cambridge’s Department of Physics, said, “Each step on our spintronic staircase is only a few atoms high. I find it amazing that by using nanotechnology not only can we build structures with such precision in the lab but also using advanced laser instruments we can actually see the data climbing this nano-staircase step by step.

“This is a great example of the power of advanced materials science. Traditionally, we would use a series of electronic transistors to move data like this. We’ve been able to achieve the same effect just by combining different basic elements such as cobalt, platinum and ruthenium. This is the 21st century way of building things – harnessing the basic power of elements and materials to give built-in functionality.”

Researchers then confirmed the findings with the other methods of measurement.

“This simple and efficient shift-register concept suggests a route to the creation of three-dimensional microchips for memory and logic applications.” Researchers wrote.

Reference:

Reinoud Lavrijsen, Ji-Hyun Lee, Amalio Fernández-Pacheco, Dorothée C. M. C. Petit, Rhodri Mansell, Russell P. Cowburn, (2013). Magnetic ratchet for three-dimensional spintronic memory and logic. Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature11733