Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Nanoscale sensors

I recently read about the combination of two different nanotechnologies which could result in more sensitive but lower power consuming sensor hardware.  The University of Southampton has been doing some work on this, through a European funded project, which would overcome the limitations of existing CMOS techniques.  The first nanotechnology used is nanomachining in order to actually construct such tiny sensor systems.  The second uses single-electron transistors consisting of a single bridge of airspaced silicon which confines individual electrons.  
This approach is being used to produce two types of sensor.  The first is able to sense the change in electrical conductance as a result of the charge transfer from a molecule captured on the bridge channel's surface.  The other sensor type uses the bridge gate in suspension to detect the small mass changes of captured molecules which signals an electrical change in the resonant frequency of the gate.

In a future world where sensors are a natural pervasive part of the environment, nanotechnology seems sure to have a number of applications ... the sensor approach described here being just the tip of the iceberg.  

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