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Dubai-based tech institute claims major breakthrough

Nanotechnology is helping make computers, mobile phones and PDAs smaller, cheaper, faster and more powerful. (AFP)

By Reena Amos Dyes

Your mobile phones and computers will become faster, more powerful and even smaller than they are now, thanks to a technological development by the Dubai Silicon Oasis-based Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

According to experts at RIT, advances in the past 40 years in electronics were achieved by making smaller devices that allow for placing more of them on the same chip.

RIT's research in nanophotonics and nanoplasmonics has resulted in "squeezing" or confining light in almost 20nmx20nm. This is a very significant result because it will enable them to make electronic devices even smaller than the existing ones and that means more computer power with faster devices that consume less power. Hence, once this technology hits the market your computer and mobile phone will become more powerful and even smaller.

Dr Mustafa AG Abushagur, President and Dean of RIT Dubai, told Emirates Business: "Electronics has changed the way we live, communicate, entertain and do business for the past 30 or so years. This was made possible by the invention of the integrated circuit (IC), which made possible the fabrication of a large number of transistors (switches) on the same silicon chip. What we have achieved at RIT is very significant because it will enable us to reduce the size of transistors to a level that is impossible now. This means that your computers, mobile phones, PDAs and other electronic devices will become much smaller, cheaper, faster and more powerful."

This is enabling technology, or a technology that will make other things possible. Electronic and computer companies such as Intel and IBM will be able to make more powerful equipment that is more affordable. It belongs to what is called microlithography.

But will the faster, powerful and smaller computers and phones that will be made using this technology cost more in the future?

Dr Abushagur said: "Usually these technologies take several years before they migrate from the research lab to consumer products. However, once it is put to commercial use this technology will be integrated in a long fabrication process so the customer will not bear the cost. It will cause the IC cost to come down in terms of the power it delivers. This is evident in computers and mobiles whose prices continue to go down. There is a rule in this industry that cost is cut in half every 18 months. This is made possible by making devices smaller and more powerful."

According to RIT this research is a result of many years of investigation and development in the fields of electronics and photonics and by many groups in universities and industries worldwide.

Dr Abushagur said: "This technology will influence the size, power and shape of consumer products and will revolutionise the future of the information age."

What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology, which is sometimes shortened to Nanotech, refers to a field whose theme is the control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally nanotechnology deals with structures of the size 100 nanometres (one millionth of a millimetre) and the fabrication of devices within that size range or smaller.

Nanotechnology is extremely diverse, ranging from novel extensions of conventional device physics, to completely new approaches based on molecular self-assembly, to developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale, even to speculation on whether we can directly control matter on the atomic scale. Nanotechnology has the potential to create many new materials and devices with wide-ranging applications, such as in medicine, electronics and energy production.

Nanotechnology offers ways to create smaller, cheaper, lighter, faster and more intelligent devices that use fewer raw materials and consume less energy.