World’s smallest silicon sensor to monitor environs

July 7th, 2008 - 6:39 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 7 (IANS) Researchers are fabricating the world’s smallest silicon sensor that will be extremely powerful and yet consume very little power. The sensor, with applications in bio-sensing and ecological monitoring, is being developed by researchers at the University of Southampton.

“Power consumption is a big issue at the moment as devices use current whether they are switched off and on,” said Hiroshi Mizuta, project head.

Being developed as part the European NEMSIC (Nano-electro-mechanical-system-integrated-circuits) project, the sensor will integrate single-electron transistors (SETs) and nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS) on a common silicon technology platform.

“SET, combined with the NEM device technology, reduces power consumption at both ‘on’ and ‘off’ states of the sensor. Stand-by power is reduced to zero by having a complete sleep with the NEM switch when it is off,” Mizuta said.

Mizuta and his team are developing the SET with a unique suspended silicon nanobridge that will work as an extremely sensitive detector for biological and chemical molecules.

“This is the first time that anyone has combined these two nanotechnologies to develop a smart sensor,” said Mizuta.

“The traditional CMOS (Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) approach has many limitations so we needed to find a new approach.”

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