Technology Developments

North Carolina State Develops 'Smart Sensor' for Computer Chips

Researchers at North Carolina State University have figured out how to add a sensor to a computer chip, enabling it to function under extreme situations. The advantage, according to the co-author of the research is that "Now you have a Smart sensor that can sense, manipulate, and respond to information." Jay Narayan, professor of materials science and engineering, said that the sensors would be useful for military or security applications because they can respond more quickly to changing conditions.

Narayan discovered 'domain matching epitaxy,' a model for developing defect-free, single crystals for different materials. This development enables the amplification of the electronic signals transmitted between materials. As he explained in a statement, sensors are usually hardwired onto a computer. But his team's research led to integration of vanadium oxide, a sensor material, with a chip of silicon, making the sensor material a constituent of the chip.

The findings are described in the paper, "Mechanism of Semiconductor Metal Transition of Vanadium Oxide Thin Films," which was presented in April 2010 at a meeting of materials researchers.

The next step, according to the researchers, is to enhance the dependability of the Smart sensors to cater to variable conditions, such as extreme pressures and temperatures.

The National Science Foundation is funding the research.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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