Researchers in the US have developed a nanomaterial they claim could lead to computers and electronics devices that can transform from one type of device to another.
The technique could be used to "rewire" system-on-chip processors to change their functions or reconfigure tightly packed components within devices.
According to Northwest University scientists, the development “could lead to a computer that can reconfigure its internal wiring and become an entirely different device, based on changing needs”.
"One of the main things here is to build circuits that can reconfigure 'connections' between various electronic components on the fly," Bartosz Grzybowski, professor of chemical and biological engineering, who led the research told PC Pro.
"The ultimate goal is to have switches that are just one nanoionic particle across, which would translate into much higher density of elements that one can put on the chip."
The reversible nature of this new material could allow a computer to redirect and adapt its own circuitry to what is required at a specific moment in time
In a paper published in Nature, the researchers describe how electrical currents passing through specially coated films of gold nanoparticles could change a device's functions by rewiring components.
"Our new steering technology allows [a device] to direct current flow through a piece of continuous material," said Grzybowski.
"Like redirecting a river, streams of electrons can be steered in multiple directions through a block of the material - even multiple streams flowing in opposing directions at the same time."
By manipulating electric fields within components, currents could be reconfigured, modulated, blocked or even deflected so that currents only pass through select regions of the material, the scientists said.
The development opens possibilities for reconfiguring devices to perform different tasks as technology develops, or even to perform specific tasks.
"Besides acting as three-dimensional bridges between existing technologies, the reversible nature of this new material could allow a computer to redirect and adapt its own circuitry to what is required at a specific moment in time," the researchers said.
The scientists said they had made preliminary electronic components from the hybrid material, but gave no predictions on when the technique might appear in laptops.