Biological connections in microelectronics

Feb 12, 2013

Miniaturization of electronic components is reaching a physical limit. While the solution of three dimensional assembly has the advantage of reducing bulk, the manufacture of electrical connections in these new products remains a technological challenge. Biologists and physicists from the CEA, CNRS, Université Joseph Fourier and Inra in Grenoble have developed a system of self-assembled connections using actin filaments for 3D microelectronic structures. Once the actin filaments become conductors, they join the various components of a system together. The results are published in the February 10, 2013 issue of Nature Materials.

Computers and smartphone performance improves each year due to the increased density of the microelectronic components they contain. This densification is the result of increasingly advanced . It is in the process of reaching a technical limit due to the size of certain components that is close to that of some atoms. The microelectronics industry is thus confronting a for increasing the integration density of components that only a can overcome.

One solution may be the integration of microelectronics in three dimensions. Current are flat. Stacking components on top of one another is a solution for further , improving performance and reducing electric consumption. This poses a new challenge: how to connect the components together once they are stacked. Although manufacture and stacking are based on mature technologies, creating vertical connections to link them together and running a current remains complex. While current 3D microelectronic technologies for these high density connections are effective, alternative methods are worth evaluating.

Biologists and physicists from the CEA, CNRS, UJF and Inra in Grenoble had the idea of using the extraordinary self-assembly properties of certain biological components so these connections can construct themselves. In human cells, many regular, complex structures are continually assembling and disassembling. This is the case of the filament networks that constitute the cell skeleton (cytoskeleton). Such filaments are primarily composed of actin. They interact to form braids, bundles, layers and columns whose architecture and mechanical properties regulate and control cell shape. The formation of these superstructures follows mechanical and geometrical laws that are studied and understood by a team from the Laboratory of Vegetable Cellular Physiology[1] (CEA/CNRS/UJF/INRA). These researchers have developed a technique for controlling self-assembly of actin filaments in 3D between two glass plates. Using technologies of the Microelectronics Technologies Laboratory (CNRS/UJF/LTM) and CEA-Leti, the plates were placed 30 microns apart and microstructured with a laser beam. The researchers then injected between the two surfaces a solution containing actin monomers that polymerized due to the microstructure geometry. Actin columns in controlled shapes and sizes thus self-assembled from the two surfaces and joined to establish connections. In the same fashion, the researchers succeeded in making columns grow from a surface and entering in deep cylinders based on the shape of the other, like a male/female connection. Using the expertise of CEA-Leti researchers, these connections were made metallic with gold nanoparticles to run an electric current between the two surfaces.

These results demonstrate that the self-assembly process of may have unanticipated industrial applications. They illustrate how fundamental research into basic cell processes may be an extremely rich source of inspiration for engineering processes, even in very far removed fields.

Explore further: Cell division speed influences gene architecture

Related Stories

How actin networks are actin'

Jan 02, 2008

Dynamic networks of growing actin filaments are critical for many cellular processes, including cell migration, intracellular transport, and the recovery of proteins from the cell surface. In this week’s issue of the open-access ...

Video captures cellular 'workhorses' in action

Apr 28, 2011

Scientists at Yale University and in Grenoble France have succeeded in creating a movie showing the breakup of actin filaments, the thread-like structures inside cells that are crucial to their movement, maintenance and division.

Skeleton key for cancer metastasis

Apr 26, 2010

Cancer cells need all three of their cytoskeletons—actin, microtubules, and intermediate filaments—to metastasize, according to a study published online on April 26 in the Journal of Cell Biology.

Using a light touch to measure protein bonds

Jun 30, 2008

MIT researchers have developed a novel technique to measure the strength of the bonds between two protein molecules important in cell machinery: Gently tugging them apart with light beams.

Recommended for you

Cell division speed influences gene architecture

20 hours ago

Speed-reading is a technique used to read quickly. It involves visual searching for clues to meaning and skipping non-essential words and/ or sentences. Similarly to humans, biological systems are sometimes ...

Secret life of cells revealed with new technique

22 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new technique that allows researchers to conduct experiments more rapidly and accurately is giving insights into the workings of proteins important in heart and muscle diseases.

In the 'slime jungle' height matters

23 hours ago

(Phys.org) —In communities of microbes, akin to 'slime jungles', cells evolve not just to grow faster than their rivals but also to push themselves to the surface of colonies where they gain the best access ...

Queuing theory helps physicist understand protein recycling

Apr 22, 2014

We've all waited in line and most of us have gotten stuck in a check-out line longer than we would like. For Will Mather, assistant professor of physics and an instructor with the College of Science's Integrated Science Curriculum, ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

SK Hynix posts Q1 surge in net profit

South Korea's SK Hynix Inc said Thursday its first-quarter net profit surged nearly 350 percent from the previous year on a spike in sales of PC memory chips.