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Published on : Jan 28, 2015

As per a recent discovery made by a research team at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland it is possible to come up with conductive pathways many atoms wide in a material, make them mobile and move around, and make them disappear as per desired.

The approach is known as adaptable electronics which is currently creating a certain interest since it has many applications, which includes a single chip performing the tasks of various circuits. 

The research team cited an instance wherein, a circuit that was assigned to process sound information could, when not being utilized for this purpose, be reassigned for processing the images. This, as result, would enable electronic devices to get converted into the small or the miniature form. Another advantage of this approach could be that of resilient circuits. In this, if by chance, a chip gets damaged, it can theoretically reconfigure itself with the help of the components that have remained intact. 

Ferroelectric materials are those that underpin the work, wherein flexible conductive pathways can get generated via the application of an electric field. The application of the current causes a few atoms to move up and down - a process also known as polarization. In the recent past it was observed that conductive pathways many atoms wide get formed between the aforementioned polarized zones. However, it has yet not been possible to control the formation of these pathways. 

The researchers at EPFL have demonstrated the formation and creation of walls on a film of ferroelectric material which is basically sandwiched between pathways created at given sites and the platinum components that can be controlled. Via the application of the electric fields locally on the metal part the researchers we were in a position to create pathways at several different sites and even make them move around. In fact, these could even get destroyed with the help of a reverse electric field. The research team had examined its findings on isolated materials as well, and the next step that the researchers will take will be the development of a prototype reconfigurable circuit.