IBM makes atomic chip breakthrough

Scientists at IBM claimed today that it has cracked a materials conundrum that may well create a new class of memory and logic chips.

The scientists discovered a way to operate chips using small ionic currents. That’s streams of charged atoms mimicking the way the human brain works.

Moore’s Law is close to bust at the CMOS level, IBM thinks and low power and high performance semiconductors using different techniques will soon be needed.

The IBM scientists have figured out that you can reversibly transform metal oxides between inslating and conductive states by inserting and removing oxygen ions through electric fields at the interface between oxide and liquid. When the oxide material becomes conductive, materials maintain a stable metallic state, even when power is off.

Dr Stuart Parkin, an IBM Fellow at IBM Research, said: “Our ability to understand and control matter at atomic scale dimensions allows us to engineer new materials and devices that operate on entirely different principles than the silicon based information technologies of today. Going beyond today’s charge-based devices to those that use miniscule ionic currents to reversibly control the state of matter has the potential for new types of mobile devices. Using these devices and concepts in novel three-dimensional architectures could prevent the information technology industry from hitting a technology brick wall.”

The researchers said that IBM scientists applied a positively charged ionic loquid electrolyte to vanadium dioxide, converting the material to a metallic state.