New theoretical framework for making nanocircuits with nanotechnology

The way in which fundamental electromagnetic properties scale with dimension determines what electronic circuits can be constructed using nanotechnology. A new theoretical framework for nanotech seeks to use specially designed nanoparticles to create circuits that could lead to optical information processing and optical communication between nanostructures. A few excerpts from Prof posits metananocircuits as electronics’ next frontier, written by Sunny Bains at EE Times, via

A University of Pennsylvania professor is exploring an approach to nanotechnology that will allow circuit theory to operate in an entirely new regime—one where “current” is no longer defined as the movement of electrons and holes, but instead as an electromagnetic wave.

If Nader Engheta’s theories prove successful in practice—and researchers are already working on experiments to test this—then the work could strike the elusive balance between finding new technologies that can reliably operate at nanometer scales and ensuring that the technologies can bootstrap on decades of knowledge about more-conventional electronics.

For one thing, Engheta said he is interested the possibility of creating switches from metananocircuitry. They could lead to a new kind of optical information processing and, perhaps, a new form of nanoscale computational unit, said Engheta, the H. Nedwill Ramsey Professor of electrical and systems engineering at Penn.

He is also excited about the idea of “wireless at nanoscales using light.” In other words, Engheta said, he’d like to investigate the possibility of optical communication between nanostructures or even cells that could be pressed into service in the same way that RF and microwaves are used at other scales.

George Eleftheriades, professor of electrical and computer engineering and a Canada research chair at the University of Toronto, said Engheta’s work provides “a vision, consisting of building blocks, along with instructions on how to arrange them together to enable transplanting well-known passive inductor-capacitor-resistor [LCR] electrical networks to the optical domain. This includes the direct optical realization of filters, antennas, power-distribution networks, microwave transmission-line metamaterials and many more.”

The building blocks in Engheta’s world are dielectric nanoparticles, Eleftheriades explained. Conventional dielectric nanoparticles—those with positive permittivity—”can realize optical capacitors,” he said, whereas negative plasmonic nanoparticles, which have negative permittivity, can realize optical inductors and resistors.

“What makes these different from conventional electronic networks,” he said, “is that instead of thinking in terms of a conduction current, one should think in terms of the displacement current, which indeed can ‘flow’ in free space and in dielectric materials.”

Nader Engheta’s Web site has more information on his work on Metactronics: Metamaterial-Inspired Nanoelectronics, Circuits with Light at Nanoscale.

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