Singapore firm teams with EU to develop molecular level chip

A firm from Singapore has joined 10 EU organisations in attempting to develop a molecular-sized processor.

A*STAR is the only non-EU company in a group of 10 that is working together on the $10 million project to develop processors one thousandth the size of the current standard processing chip, increasing computational speed immensely while taking up just a fraction of the space.

The project will establish a new process for making a complete molecular chip with fully packaged and interconnected planar atomic scale complex logic circuits, which is capable of computation, according to the European Commission. The single molecule and circuits are interconnected by atomic or molecular wires constructed with atomic precision, which will potentially make it the smallest computer chip in the world.

Three unique ultra-high vacuum (UHV) atomic scale interconnection machines, capable of building the chip literally atom-by-atom, will be used, one of which will be supplied by A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE).

“IMRE holds the only patent in the world for making solid interconnections and packaging of a molecular chip. The UHV interconnection machine at IMRE is the only one in the whole project at the moment that can study the performance of a single molecule logic gate and surface atom circuit logic gate,” said Prof Joachim, the Head of Molecular Nanoscience and Picotechnology at the French Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique (CNRS), who is leading the project.

Prof Joachim and his team at IMRE are pioneers in the field of atom technology, having already built the world’s first molecular gear last year.  “The work in this project is extremely important in setting the stage for how computer chips and electronics may be made in the future”, said Prof Andy Hor, executive director of IMRE.

Prof Hor added that the lessons learnt from the project will help in the development of materials for room temperature applications and their corresponding mass fabrication processes of molecular chips for eventual industrial adoption.

The flagship project named ATMOL is part of the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET-Proactive) and ICT programme of the European Commission, which supports transformational, long-term collaborative frontier research with regards to representing, storing and exchanging information at the atomic and molecular scale, as a basis for fully functional ICT devices and systems.