The Northwestern team has made reconfigurable electronic materials: materials that can rearrange themselves to meet different computational needs at different times. This development could lead to a computer that can simply reconfigure its internal wiring and become an entirely different device, based on changing needs.
"Our new steering technology allows use to direct current flow through a piece of continuous material," said Bartosz A. Grzybowski, who led the research. "Like redirecting a river, streams of electrons can be steered in multiple directions through a block of the material -- even multiple streams flowing in opposing directions at the same time."
The Northwestern material combines different aspects of silicon- and polymer-based electronics to create a new classification of electronic materials: nanoparticle-based electronics.
The study, in which the authors report making preliminary electronic components with the hybrid material, is available at the the journal Nature Nanotechnology.