Researchers have come up with a new way of making cheaper chips by growing them from suspended nanoparticles of gold.
According to the popular science magazine Nature, which we get for the spot the nanoparticles in a free-flowing solution competition, the method was discovered by Lars Samuelson, Professor of Semiconductor Physics at Lund University, Sweden, and head of the University's Nanometre Structure Consortium.
It could be commercialised in two to four years' time, platform tickets pending. A prototype for solar cells is expected to be ready in two years.
According to the article with the catchy title 'Continuous gas-phase synthesis of nanowires with tuneable properties' the reason why no one has tested this method before is that the current method is basic and obvious.
As a result, Samuelson said that other scientists thought he was mad trying to get rid of the substrate. They said it would never fly, but he showed them.
When he tested the principle in one of the lab's converted ovens at 400°C, the results were better than the researchers could have dreamt of, he said.
The method involves letting nanoparticles of gold serve as a substrate from which the semiconductors grow.
Since that heady golden age, the technology has been refined, patents have been obtained and further studies have been conducted.
Nature reports how the researchers show how the growth can be controlled using temperature, time and the size of the gold nanoparticles.
Using a series of ovens, the researchers can 'bake' the nanowires, and develop multiple variants, such as p-n diodes.
If the technology is taken up it will mean the end of the expensive semiconductor wafer as we know it.
The process is not only extremely quick, it is also continuous. Traditional manufacture of substrates is batch-based and is therefore much more time-consuming, Samuelson said.