The integrated circuit, manufactured by optical lithography, has driven the computer revolution for four decades. If we are to continue to build complex systems of ever-smaller components, we must find a new technology that will allow massively parallel construction of electronic circuits at the atomic scale.
Our Science paper (James R. Heath, Philip J. Kuekes, Gregory S. Snider and R. Stanley Williams, A Defect Tolerant Computer Architecture: Opportunities for Nanotechnology, Science, v.280, 12 June 1998) presented a defect tolerant reconfigurable architecture which allows one to electrically download the designed complexity of a computer into a chemically assembled regular but imperfect nanostructure.
Our Hewlett-Packard and University of California research team is currently developing the molecular electronics building blocks and CAD algorithms for such a reconfigurable technology. The ability of a reconfigurable architecture to create a functional system in the presence of defective components may well change the style of manufacturing in the 21st century.
The industrial revolution started with inexpensive labor assembling capital intensive interchangeable precision parts. Two centuries later we may switch to supercomputer labor assembling inexpensive chemically produced imperfect parts.
Back to NANO2002 Workshop I: Alternative Computing