As circuit elements shrink, the task of assembling them into the right structure requires new tricks too. Scientists are taking inspiration from one of mother nature's patented designs: DNA. Researchers at IBM have found a way to make viral DNA strands self-assemble into scaffolds on which millions of carbon nanotubes can be placed, creating a cheaper, more efficient alternative to today's silicon chips.
In a technique known as DNA origami, sequences of DNA are custom-designed so that the strands fold into predetermined two- and three-dimensional shapes. Researchers predict that chips assembled this way could be as small as 6 nanometers, though it may be a decade before the results go commercial.