Nanoelectronics refer to the use of nanotechnology on electronic components, especially transistors. Although the term nanotechnology is generally defined as utilizing technology less than 100nm in size, nanoelectronics often refer to transistor devices that are so small that inter-atomic interactions and quantum mechanical properties need to be studied extensively. As a result, present transistors (such as CMOS90 from TSMC or Pentium 4 Processors from Intel) do not fall under this category, even though these devices are manufactured under 90nm or 65nm technology.
Nanoelectronics are sometimes considered as disruptive technology because present candidates are significantly different from traditional transistors. Some of these candidates include: hybrid molecular/semiconductor electronics, one dimensional nanotubes/nanowires, or advanced molecular electronics. The sub-voltage and deep-sub-voltage nanoelectronics are specific and important fields of R&D, and the appearance of new ICs operating almost near theoretical limit (fundamental, technological, design methodological, architectural, algorithmic) on energy consumption per 1 bit processing is inevitable. The important case of fundamental ultimate limit for logic operation is reversible computing.
Although all of these hold immense promises for the future, they are still under development and will most likely not be used for manufacturing any time soon.
Nanofabrication can be used to construct ultradense parallel arrays of nanowires, as an alternative to synthesizing nanowires individually.
Molecular electronics is a new technology which is still in its infancy, but also brings hope for truly atomic scale electronic systems in the future. One of the more promising applications of molecular electronics was proposed by the IBM researcher Ari Aviram and the theoretical chemist Mark Ratner in their 1974 and 1988 papers Molecules for Memory, Logic and Amplification, (see Unimolecular rectifier) . This is one of many possible ways in which a molecular level diode / transistor might be synthesized by organic chemistry. A model system was proposed with a spiro carbon structure giving a molecular diode about half a nanometre across which could be connected by polythiophene molecular wires. Theoretical calculations showed the design to be sound in principle and there is still hope that such a system can be made to work.
Nanoionics studies the transport of ions rather than electrons in nanoscale systems.
Nanophotonics studies the behavior of light on the nanoscale, and has the goal of developing devices that take advantage of this behavior.
There is also research into energy production for devices that would operate in vivo, called bio-nano generators. A bio-nano generator is a nanoscale electrochemical device, like a fuel cell or galvanic cell, but drawing power from blood glucose in a living body, much the same as how the body generates energy from food. To achieve the effect, an enzyme is used that is capable of stripping glucose of its electrons, freeing them for use in electrical devices. The average person's body could, theoretically, generate 100 watts of electricity using a bio-nano generator. However, this estimate is only true if all food was converted to electricity, and the human body needs some energy consistently, so possible power generated is likely much lower. The electricity generated by such a device could power devices embedded in the body (such as pacemakers), or sugar-fed nanorobots. A similar technology was presented in the Matrix series of science fiction major motion pictures, with robots shown enslaving mankind for its bio-energy. Much of the research done on bio-nano generators is still experimental, with Panasonic's Nanotechnology Research Laboratory among those at the forefront.