Cheaper and cheaper…Monday, November 14th, 2011 by Roberto Saracco
The price of chips has gone down amazingly to reach today a few dollars per square millimeter. Take into account the fact that more and more transistors are being packaged in that square millimeter and the decrease in cost achieved is staggering, some billion times less than it used to be 30 years ago. And yet paper is still cheaper. Replacing all the labels on packages in a department store with chips would be too expensive.
But the progress of printed electronics is bound to change that. Researchers at PARC working with Thin Film, a Norwegian company, have announced the implementation of a printed chip containing both the processing and the storage on a single thin layer of polymer that is dirty cheap: a hundred times cheaper than etched silicon (the one used in today’s chip).
Adding logic to memory is crucial to increasing the storage capacity of the device, explains Janos Veres, manager of printed electronics at PARC. “We really needed to have a printed logic array that lets us address memory and increase bit count,” he says. Memory arrays are split up into rows and columns. To select a row or column, you need a logic circuit, Veres says. “The power of this demonstration is we’ve shown that you can address rows and columns with this technology,” he says. “The next step will be building bigger memory.”
And, what’s more, the next step will see the penetration of these kind of chips in everyday objects, wherever there is a paper label we can imagine a chip. And that’s is going to make the difference.