Scientists develop plastic chips

Euro scientists have used 4,000 plastic, or organic, transistors to create a plastic microprocessor.

The chip measures two centimetres and is built on top of flexible plastic foil and is being touted as an alternative to silicon.

According to Jan Genoe at the IMEC nanotechnology centre in Leuven, Belgium such a chip is cheap as er chips and can be flexible.

Technology Review  points out that the new chip is hardly up to supercomputer power yet. It can only run one simple program of 16 instructions. These have to be hardcoded into a second foil etched with plastic circuits that can be connected to the processor to “load” the program.

It runs at 6Hz and can only process information in eight-bit chunks at most. This is slightly slower than the PC of a mate of mine who, in the 1980s, said Amigas were not fast enough.

However, the chip is so thin that components could be printed onto it like ink. More work is required to make organic transistors at small sizes too. But if the team manage it, it would be possible to have an organic gas sensor wrapped around a gas pipe to report on any leaks with a flexible microprocessor to clean up the noisy signal.

Plastic electronics could also allow disposable interactive displays to be built into packaging, for example for food.