I’m not that old. Really, I’m not. But I can remember a time when TV was in black and white, and surface mount electronics was uncommon, if not rare. Of course over the years technology has moved on, Moore’s law proving itself year on year, but the essential processes of electronics manufacturing have remained pretty much the same for some time. So for anyone who thought that might last forever, the headline to Cal Jeffrey’s article is quite astounding: Microprocessors only one-atom thick make flexible electronics a reality. Let that sink in for a minute. Microprocessors. One atom thick. Flexible electronics. That’s either going to need one heck of an accurate SMT placement machine or things are going to change radically. Once this technology becomes commercially available the demand could be huge, but as designers and manufacturers we’ll need to decide how and when we engage and take full advantage. It could be a quantum leap forward rather than the iterative steps we’ve been used to, but maybe fortune will favour the brave!
Researchers at Vienna University of Technology have built a flexible microprocessor using the transition-metal dichalcogenide (TMD). Like the “wonder material” graphene, TMD can be formed into layers that are only one atom thick, making a surface that is as close to two-dimensional as we can physically get. This ultra-thin surface is what makes the processor flexible.