Boffins build see-through chip
Scientists at the Oregon State University (OSU) have produced the world's first "completely transparent" integrated circuit using inorganic materials. The see-through transistor technology will revolutionise electronics, allowing circuitry to be integrated into items like windows, bottles, glasses and car windscreens. It will also boost LCD technology, the researchers say.
There's a way to go yet: the OSU team have to work on scaling the technology and building a p-channel transistor devices, necessary to reduce the power consumption to allow it to process both analogue and digital information. Fortunately, they characterised these efforts as "very feasible".
"We might be able to bring transparent integrated circuits to widespread use in five years or so, a process that took a couple of decades in the early evolution of conventional electronics," said OSU electrical engineering professor John Wager.
OSU's test chip contains a five-stage ring oscillator. It was made out of indium gallium oxide using conventional photolithography techniques, the processes used to make most of the world's silicon chips, Wager said.
The researchers believe the transparent chips will be very cheap to make - even to the point to replacing products that don't need to be see-through. The scientists raised the prospect of disposable devices made from transparent chips, though they didn't address the environmental impact of such a shift.
Still, the potential for building circuitry into transparent media is huge, if the team can take the technology further along the path to commercialisation. In that they'll have the help of HP, which earlier this year licensed the rights to bring the technique to market. ®