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Nantech research transcends scientific boundaries

Although its origins can be traced to electronics, nanotechnology now bridges many scientific disciplines. Purdue researchers are pursuing a number of projects to advance nanotechnology.

Some examples of this work:

  • Developing sensors to monitor pressures and temperatures in tiny machines called microelectromechanical systems. Such sensors could make possible the creation of minuscule refrigeration systems, which might have numerous applications, from high- performance computers to portable storage vessels that preserve biological field samples.

  • Understanding how electricity flows through transistors as they are shrunk to only a few atomic layers. Such information will be critical in designing nanometer-scale electronics and in understanding the minimum dimensions at which transistors can operate.

  • Understanding how electricity flows through organic molecules, such as DNA. That research ties in with international efforts to develop molecular electronic devices and systems that "self-assemble," similar to the growth of complex organic structures in living things.

  • Designing molecules that automatically find each other and link together to form elaborate structures, and creating materials that "evolve" to meet changing environmental conditions. Chemists are using self-assembly approaches to control the behavior of matter at the molecular level. In that work, molecules are "programmed" to automatically come together in groups of six, making rosette-shaped patterns. Numerous rosettes then combine to form tiny, rod-like structures called nanotubes, which may someday be used to manufacture "molecular wires."

  • Developing "biochips," a form of "nano-biotechnology" aimed at making diagnostic devices that could be implanted in the body or used to quickly analyze food and laboratory samples.

  • Investigating new forms of semiconductors created by cramming silicon and germanium into tiny nanoscale dimensions, which results in unpredictable properties such as emitting bright light in a range of colors. Researchers say the new semiconductors may be ideal for sensors and other devices.