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Nanotubes Seen as Alternative When Silicon Chips Hit Their Limits

A carbon nanotube

Carbon nanotubes, like this one, could be the best choice to replace silicon-based integrated circuits once those devices reach their physical limits.

Credit: The Computer Language Company Inc.

Stanford University researchers have demonstrated a microelectronic circuit composed of 44 transistors fabricated entirely from carbon nanotubes. The development indicates that carbon nanotubes could be the best choice to replace silicon-based chips when they reach their fundamental physical limits.

The Stanford technology reinforces the idea that when the silicon era stalls, the scaling-down process will continue, and carbon nanotubes will permit designers to continue to increase the power and capacity of computers in the future.

"The bottom line is you can expect an order of magnitude in power-saving at the system level," says Stanford professor Subhasish Mitra. He notes that nanotubes offer tremendous potential to increase the battery life of mobile devices.

The challenge with carbon nanotubes in their type state is that they form a giant "hairball" of interwoven molecules. However, by chemically growing them on a quartz surface, the researchers are able to align them closely and in regularly spaced rows.

The Stanford researchers say they have perfected a circuit technique that makes use of redundancy to work around the imperfectly formed wires.

From The New York Times
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