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Royal Society scientists debate future of electronics

It is hoped that the research could soon lead to the production of low-cost, low-energy optoelectronics

The future of electronics is likely to encompass new areas of technology, including biotechnology, and exploit new forms of optics and photonics, according to scientists meeting at the Royal Society this week.

Professor David Cumming, one of the organisers of the Royal Society conference, said: "Today, we find ourselves at an enormously exciting point in the evolution of electronics technologies."

Cumming said two branches of this evolution will be discussed over the next few days. One is the increasing number of "non-traditional" electronics applications that are emerging, such as biotechnology. And the other is the development of non-electronic technologies such as bioelectronics, optics and photonics, which will be essential to "continuation of the rapid exponential development of integrated circuit engineering".

It is hoped that this research, said the Royal Society, could soon lead to the production of low-cost, low-energy optoelectronics, which would "dramatically improve home entertainment technologies such as video streaming".

The scientists will also discuss recent research into microelectronic systems that are engineered to observe the activities of biomolecules including enzymes, membrane proteins and DNA. They hope that "revolutionary developments will one day enable personalised health checks and disease diagnoses to be made on mobile devices".

One of the scientists presenting his work at the Royal Society, professor Rahul Sarpeshkar of the US' MIT, said: "The fundamental limits of semiconductor computation naturally lead one to consider computing directly with molecules as biological cells do.

"Fortunately, the deep connections between chemistry and electronics reveal that analogue computation in electronics can provide mechanisms for architecting analogue circuits in cells, and cells can in turn provide inspiration for highly energy-efficient, fault-tolerant circuits in electronics."

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