Nanotechnology Introduction Series:
Information Technology

By: Dr Stanley Crawford (Ed.D)

The impact of nanotechnology on information technology revolves around two distinct areas: 1) the use of nanomaterials to create smaller, faster, more efficient memory for use in computers and  2) the replacement of current computer devices for devices with computers using advanced quantum computer technology.  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].

In the first area of smaller, faster, and more efficient, we will discuss memristors, graphene transistors, and phase change memories.  Memristors are two terminal non-volatile memory devices based on resistance switching.  Memristors can be switched from a low resistance state to a high-resistance state by applying a short voltage pulse, or short current pulse [2].  Memristors are nonlinear electronic devices and they have been used in computer data storage.  They have existed for years; however, the development of nanoscale memristors is a fairly recent development [3].   Memristors are able to keep memory states, and data, in power-off modes.  This being on the nanoscale is significant because it will not require poser to maintain the memory state.



Another form of memory is phase change memory (PCM); which is a memory that relies on programmable resistances, along with scalable current and thermal mechanisms.  PCM provides nonvolatile storage.  PCM is expected to increase main memory density and capacity [4].  Nanotechnology by virtue of its smallness as compared to existing technology will create larger storage capacity than exists today.  Phase change memory equipped devices will likely add to the storage capacity of mobile devices.

The second area, advanced computer technology replacing existing technology, will most likely be quantum computers.   Quantum mechanics is expected to play a major role in the behavior of developing forms of nanotechnology associated with quantum computers and quantum computing.  Conventional computers work with bits, while quantum computers work with quantum bits or qubits, for short.  These qubits represent quantum mechanical states rather than transistors.  Qubits are able to represent more than just the two bits that binary systems represent [5].  This along with other quantum principals associated with the qubits will allow the quantum computer to outperform a conventional computer.

Some of the areas that the quantum computers are expected to perform tasks in areas such as vision recognition, medical diagnosis and artificial intelligence processing tasks [6].  Some researchers have begun to conducted research about how to network quantum computers and the information that they will generate.  For example, Lagan, Lohe, and Smekal (2011), conducted research where they used a Universal Quantum Computer program that made use of oracle based algorithms [7].  As research and development continues to advance around quantum computing the impact is likely to be similar to the way transistors transformed the field of electronics, when transistors were first introduced.


[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] L.Chua, Resistance switching memories are memristors, Applied Physics A, 2011, 102, 765-783.

[3] T. Prodromakis, C. Toumazou, L. Chua, Two centuries of memristors, Nature Materials, Jun 2012, Volume 11, 478-481.

[4] 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.

[5] T.D. Ladd, F. Jelezko, R. Laflamme, Y. Nakamur, C. Monroe, J.L. O’Brien, Quantum computers, Nature, 2010, Volume 464, Number 4, 45-53.

[6], Quantum computing, Retrieved from  March 24, 2013.

[7] A.A. Lagan, M.A. Lohe, L. von Smekal, Interfacing external quantum devices to a universal quantum computer, Plos One, 2011, Volume 6, Issue 12, 1-5.


Category: Nanotechnology