A European research consortium has adapted existing nanotechnology to create tiny switches that could further reduce the size and cost of computers.
The E! 2839 Mesci-I project - co-ordinated by European Union research network Eureka - claims to have succeeded where many others have failed, by making the production of miniature electric and computer systems economically viable.
The process uses mechanical nano-switches to store non-volatile memory data, which reduces the number of microchips used and cuts their demand for power.
The key, said Mike Beunder, chief executive of the project's Dutch lead partner Cavendish Kinetics, has been "adapting existing proven technology rather than trying to develop new processes". Previous attempts at investigating new technologies had run up high costs.
The consortium had to integrate the production of generic nano-switches into a mainstream complementary metal-oxide silicon (CMos) process.
Until now, this process has been hampered by the use of materials such as gold and silver in the manufacturing of nano-switches, which are not compatible with metal-oxide processes.
The Eureka team has used standard aluminium and copper materials instead. In the past, Nano-processing has also required steps that are impossible on standard CMos lines, such as bulk silicon etching and chemical implants.