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Technologies and Designs for
Nanometer-Scale Electronic Computers:
A Review and Prospectus

J.C. Ellenbogen*

MITRE Corporation

This is an abstract for a talk to be given at the
Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.
There will be a link from here to the full article when it is available on the web.
The substance this presentation has been posted on the Web
in two MITRE review articles about nanoelectronics.
These may be found in the form of downloadable pdf files at the URL:


For the past 40 years, there has been continual, rapid miniaturization of electronic circuits in order to produce ever more powerful computers. As this highly desirable trend continues, in the forseeable future the basic components of electronic computer circuitry will measure only a few tens of nanometers across--i.e., a few hundreds of atomic diameters across. A nanometer-scale electronic computer, as opposed to other approaches for building a nanocomputer (i.e., nanomechanical, biochemical, quantum), has the advantage that it builds directly upon the decades of experience and the huge infrastructure of the world-wide electronics industry. However, there are some significant new problems posed by the fact that nanometer-scale electronic devices, or "nanoelectronics," will be only slightly bigger than the individual molecules that compose matter. By contrast, present-day microelectronic devices are at least one micron (1000 nanometers) across, and their operation depends on effects that are present only in bulk matter. These bulk effects are not a satisfactory basis for operating molecular-scale/nanometer-scale electronic devices. Thus, nanoelectronic devices not only will be much smaller, but they must operate according to designs and quantum mechanical principles different from those employed by present-day microelectronic devices. Also, it will be necessary to manufacture nanoelectronic devices and circuitry using fabrication techniques that are significantly different from those in use today. The speaker will present the results of a several-year MITRE investigation of technologies and designs that presently are in development to overcome such obstacles and to permit the construction of nanometer-scale electronic computers. The presentation will survey developments in solid-state nanoelectronic devices and molecular electronic devices, as well as innovative ideas for ultra-dense computer circuits and architectures based upon these devices. It will also survey selected developments in emerging technologies for nanofabrication, such as chemosynthesis and mechanosynthesis, that may assist in realizing an ultra-densely integrated electronic computer. In addition, the speaker will discuss some of the preliminary results from an ongoing effort at The MITRE Corporation to develop a realizable architecture for a molecular-scale electronic computer.

*Corresponding Address:
James C. Ellenbogen, Ph.D., Lead Scientist, Nanosystems Group, The MITRE Corporation, McLean, VA 22102, e-mail:


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