An essay in the journal Small (2011, 7, No. 20, 2836-C2839) discusses the growing footprint of nanoscience and nanotechnology on the global scientific landscape. The authors used query terms such as nano*, graphene* and polymer* in Web of Science by Thomson Reuters to generate search results from several key journals in the field such as ACS Nano and Nano Letters. The search results were subsequently analyzed in terms of scope, geographic distribution and footprint on the scientific literature. The essay’s main points are outlined below.
The percentage of the records returned by the search terms for each year dramatically increased from 20 % in 1991 to 80 % in 2010. Also, the term nano* was not sufficient to capture the full activity in these fields and tended to underestimate the literature, especially that of the 1990s. In terms of subject category, the increase in nanoscale studies has been of several-fold for the top 5 Web of Science categories, namely Physics, Materials Science, Chemistry (physical), Chemistry (multidisciplinary) and Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. The latter had the greatest increase from 18 to 70 % from 1997 to 2009.
There is a new way to design computer chips and electronic circuitry for extreme environments: make them out of diamond. A team of electrical engineers at Vanderbilt University has developed all the basic components needed to create microelectronic devices out of thin films of nanodiamond. They have created diamond versions of transistors and, most recently, logical gates, which are a key element in computers.
“Diamond-based devices have the potential to operate at higher speeds and require less power than silicon-based devices,” Research Professor of Electrical Engineering Jimmy Davidson said. “Diamond is the most inert material known, so our devices are largely immune to radiation damage and can operate at much higher temperatures than those made from silicon.” Their design of a logical gate is described in the journal Electronics Letters.
RezQu is a family of devices and architecture for a scalable quantum computer based on superconducting phase qubits. RezQu is being developed by a team at the University of California, Santa Barbara led by John Martinis and Andrew Cleland. The team described their work at the American Physical Society meeting held on March 2011.
The 6cm-by-6cm chip holds nine quantum devices, among them four “quantum bits” that do the calculations. The team said further scaling up to 10 qubits should be possible this year. The team’s key innovation was to find a way to completely disconnect – or “decouple” – interactions between the elements of their quantum circuit. The delicate quantum states that they create must be manipulated, moved, and stored without destroying them. “It’s a problem I’ve been thinking about for three or four years now, how to turn off the interactions,” told John Martinis. “Now we’ve solved it, and that’s great – but there’s many other things we have to do.”
Two University of Manchester scientists were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics for their pioneering research on graphene, a one-atom-thick film of carbon whose strength, flexibility and electrical conductivity have opened up new horizons for pure physics research as well as high-tech applications.
Andre Geim and his colleague (and former postdoctoral assistant) Konstantin Novoselov first produced graphene in 2004 by repeatedly peeling away graphite strips with adhesive tape to isolate a single atomic plane. They analyzed its strength, transparency, and conductive properties in a paper for Science the same year.
It’s a worthy Nobel, for the simple reason that graphene may be one of the most promising and versatile materials ever discovered. It could hold the key to everything from super small computers to high-capacity batteries. Graphene properties are attractive to materials scientists and electrical engineers for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it might be possible to build circuits that are smaller and faster than what you can build in silicon.