Nanotechnology Introduction Series:

By: Dr Stanley Crawford (Ed.D)

The impact of nanotechnology on the field of communications spans across several industries.    Nanotechnology is the development and use of techniques to study physical phenomena and construct structures in the physical size range of 1-100 nanometers (nm), as well as the incorporation of these structures into applications [1].  When speaking of nanometers it is good to keep a comparison in mind that will help you keep the size of a nanometer in perspective; 1 inch = 25,400,000 nanometers.  Nanotechnology’s impact on communication is addressed in four areas that are briefly described in this article:

1)      the impact that nanotechnology has or will have on communications frequencies,

2)      radio frequency identification (RFID) tags,

3)      phase change memory (PCM), and

4)      thermoelectric recharge devices.

Graphene-Aluminum Nitride (G-AlN) Hybrid Nanoelectromechanical Resonator_the Future is Now

Hybrid Nanoelectromechanical Resonator

Let us begin with the impact that nanotechnology will have on communications frequencies.  Nanotechnology will allow communications to occur over higher frequencies than are possible today.  For example, graphene nanoelectromechanical (NEMS) resonators have been proposed for use as tuneable resonators.  These resonators will allow operating frequencies over a wide bandwidth [2].  As a result the bandwidth for devices employing the NEMS device will become wider than the devices utilized today.  This will reduce the crowding that has begun to occur between exiting frequencies.

Now let’s turn to RFID, these tags are used in many ways.  For instance, the RFID tags can be used to identify a product or item to which they are attached.  These tags work similar to a barcode.  A big advantage of these tags is that they work at a distance of several meters [3].  As an example, RFID tags can be used to track packages and products in warehouses. In addition, there is the speculation that versions of these tags could be used in order to track people, as well as products.  In another area of potential RFID application, research is being conducted in order to create a single cell RFID device.  Along with the RFID device being a single cell; researchers would like for the RFID device to have the capacity to measure and effect biological functions [4]. The small scale required for these goals are heavily influenced by nanotechnology research.

Next there is phase change memory (PCM); PCM relies on programmable resistances in order to operate.  PCM provides a nonvolatile storage for the computer, cell phone, or other device where it would be used. PCM is being considered as a viable future alternative for dynamic random access memory (DRAM) [5].  The PCM has some drawbacks; however, researchers are actively working to overcome these drawbacks.

Finally, we look at thermoelectric recharge device.  This particular device is known as Power Felt.  It was developed by researchers in the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University.  The Power Felt uses temperature differences in order to generate an electrical charge.  The Power Felt is made from carbon nanotubes [6].  Carbon nanotubes are formed from sheets of carbon that are rolled into tube like shapes.  Employment of the Power Felt might include use as insulation for pipes, covering for roofs, and lining for cold weather clothing.


[1] R.N. Kostoff, R.G. Koytcheff, C.G.Y. Lau, Global nanotechnology research literature overview, Technological forecasting & Social Change, 2007, Volume 74, 1733-1747.

[2] Observatory Nano Briefing, Nanotechnology for Wireless Communications, December 2011, Briefing No. 25, 1-4.

[3] W. Soutter, Nanotechnology in food packaging, Retrieved from, March 20, 2013.

[4] P. Burke, C. Rutherglen, Towards a single-chip, implantable RFID system: is a single-cell radio possible? Biomed Microdevices, 2010, Volume 12, 589-596.

[5] B. C. Lee, E. Ipek, O. Mutlu, D. Burger, Phase change memory architecture and the quest for scalability, Communications of the ACM, 2010, Volume 53, Number 7, 99-106.

[6] Science Daily, Recharge your cell phone with a touch? New nanotechnology converts body heat into power, Retrieved from, March 19, 2013.

Category: Nanotechnology