May 14, 2009

Study may lead to new electronic devices

U.S. researchers say they have developed a technique using a silicon crystal as a type of nanoscale vice to squeeze another crystal into a more useful shape.

The scientists led by Professor Darrell Schlom of Cornell University and Joseph Woicik of the National Institute of Standards and Technology said their accomplishment might lead to development of a new class of electronic devices that remember their last state even after power is turned off. Computers that could switch on instantly without booting an operating system is one of the possibilities, the researchers said.

Woicik and his colleagues said they combined precision X-ray spectroscopy data with theoretical calculations to demonstrate that by carefully layering a thin film of strontium titanate onto a pure silicon crystal, they could distort the titanium compound into a so-called ferroelectric compound that might serve as a fast, efficient medium for data storage.

The scientists also demonstrated the ability to write, read, store and erase patterned bits of data in the strontium titanate film.

Various aspects of the study that included researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, Northwestern University, Motorola, Ames Laboratory, the Intel Corp. and Tricorn Tech appeared in the April 17 issue of the journal Science and the April 24 issue of the journal Physical Review B.