The nanocomputer measures 0.3 x 0.03 millimeters (0.009 square millimeters) in size. To compare with a pinhead whose surface is 2 square millimeters. That means the nanocomputer built by the MITRE-Harvard researchers is 200 times smaller than a pinhead.
The interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers from The MITRE Corporation (a non for profit US governmental organization) and Harvard University has taken key steps toward ultra-small electronic computer systems that push beyond the imminent end of Moore’s Law, which states that the device density and overall processing power for computers will double every two to three years. In a paper that has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they designed and assembled, from the bottom up, a functioning, ultra-tiny control computer that is the densest nanoelectronic system ever built.
In the nanocomputer, nanoswitches are assembled and organized into circuits on several “tiles” (modules). Together, the tiles route small electronic signals around the computer, enabling it to perform calculations and process signals that could be used to control tiny systems, such as miniscule medical therapeutic devices, other tiny sensors and actuators, or even insect-sized robots
Construction of this nanocomputer was made possible by significant advances in processes that assemble with extreme precision dense arrays of the many nanodevices required. These advances also made it possible to manufacture multiple copies.
“It was a challenge to develop a system architecture and nanocircuit designs that would pack the control functions we wanted into such a very tiny system,” according to Shamik Das, chief architect of the nanocomputer, who is also principal engineer and group leader of MITRE’s Nanosystems Group. “Once we had those designs, though, our Harvard collaborators did a brilliant job innovating to be able to realize them.”