Research Magazine 2006

Building on a nanoscale

Seong Jin Koh

Seong Jin Koh

No one disputes that technology is growing exponentially.

In the mid-1960s, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors placed on an integrated circuit would double approximately every two years. His idea—called Moore’s Law—has been witnessed in technology development for almost a half-century and is expected to continue for at least another decade.

Almost every capability of digital electronic devices links to this belief, including improvements in processing speed, memory capacity and the size of pixels in digital cameras.

It’s also a driving force in the research of materials science and engineering Assistant Professor Seong Jin Koh, a 2005 recipient of a $400,000 CAREER award. Dr. Koh works to create nanoscale memory chips, a type of integrated circuit.

A UT Arlington faculty member since August 2003, Koh and five doctoral students use CAREER funding as well as grants from the Office of Naval Research and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

“We are working on single-electron devices that could potentially result in a circuit with low power consumption and ultra-high packing density and may lead to a new generation of electronic devices,” he says.

“We are working on single-electron devices that could potentially result in a circuit with low power consumption and ultra-high packing density and may lead to a new generation of electronic devices.”

Potential uses include memory chips in commercial electronics like laptops and cellphones as well as military and space applications.

Making single-electron devices requires nanoscale geometrical control, meaning every component must be placed with nanoscale precision. This challenging task has limited fabrication to a small number of devices at a time, restricting their practical use.

Now Koh and his team have developed architecture and fabrication processes that enable single-electron devices to be built with complete parallel processing. His study has been published in Nature Nanotechnology.

“Our work demonstrates that multiple single-electron devices can be fabricated simultaneously, paving the way toward the realization of integrated systems of single-electron devices for practical use,” he says.

Koh’s nanoelectronics also have potential as sensors for genetic materials. He and his team are exploring nano-sized electronics to detect small amounts of DNA for diagnostic purposes and for detecting hazardous materials.

The work is in its infancy but has potential benefits in diagnosing diseases, developing medicines, investigating crime scenes and protection from biological threats.

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- Becky Purvis