By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk
The University of Nottingham is the UK's representative in a major new European project to build a computer that uses molecules as switches rather than transistors.
The four year AtMol project stats on the 1st January with ten research groups in Europe working together with the IMRE Institute from A*A*STAR inSingapore on atomic scale technologies, new quantum architectures with multi-scale interconnection and packaging techniques for a single molecule to compute and be packaged into a molecular chip.
However, the research builds the devices individually, and mass production will be needed to make molecular computers a reality.
AtMol had already established a detail process flow for fabricating the molecular chip with a single calculating molecule unit connected via external nano-electrodes to preserve its integrity down to the atomic level even after its encapsulation. On a surface, the required logic functions are embedded in a single molecule but can also be implanted within an atomic scale circuit. AtMol will explore and demonstrate how the combination of classical and quantum information inside the same atomic scale circuit increases the computing power of the final intramolecular logic circuit.
Atomic scale logics will be constructed using atom-by-atom manipulation, on-surface chemistry, and lab tested using a unique UHV transfer printing technology.
The AtMol research needs state-of-the-art UHV atomic scale interconnection machines comprising, a UHV surface preparation chamber, a UHV transfer printing device, an LTUHV-STM (or a UHV-NC-AFM) for atomic scale construction, a FIM atomic scale tip fabrication device and a multi-probe system with its companion SEM or optical navigation microscope. At the starting of AtMol, only three of such machines exist worldwide and they are each housed within AtMol laboratories (Toulouse, Krakow and Singapore). They will be used to interconnect molecule logic gates one-by-one in a planar atomic scale multi-pad approach on the top, atomically reconstructed, surface of the wafer. For this molecular chip, the back face of the wafer will incorporate nano-to-micro-scale interconnections using nanofabricated vias. The AtMol patented hybrid micro-nano back interconnect approach will enable the full packaging of the molecular chip preserving the surface atomic scale precision of the design.
The AtMol partners are dominated by centres in Germany and Spain, as well as the state-funded French research institutes:
- CEMES-CNRS (Toulouse, France),
- LETI-CEA (Grenoble, France),
- Phantoms Foundation (Madrid, Spain),
- ICIQ (Tarragona, Spain),
- CSIC (Barcelona, Spain),
- Fritz Haber Institute (Berlin, Germany),
- Humboldt University (Berlin, Germany),
- Dresden Technical University (Dresden, Germany),
- Nottingham University (Nottingham, UK),
- Jagiellonian University (Krakow, Poland),
- IMRE A*STAR (Singapore)