IBM scientists have developed a breakthrough transistor technology that could enable production of a new class of smaller, faster and lower power computer chips than currently possible with silicon.
The researchers built the world's first array of transistors out of carbon nanotubes -- tiny cylinders of carbon atoms that measure as small as 10 atoms across and are 500 times smaller than today's silicon-based transistors. The breakthrough is a new batch process for forming large numbers of nanotube transistors.
Until now, nanotubes had to be positioned one at a time or by random chance, which while fine for scientific experiments is slow and tedious for mass production.
The achievement is an important step in finding new materials and processes for improving computer chips after silicon-based chips cannot be made any smaller -- a problem chip makers are expected to face in about 10-20 years.
"This is a major step forward in our pursuit to build molecular-scale electronic devices," said Phaedon Avouris, lead researcher and manager of IBM's Nanoscale Science Research Department. "Our studies prove that carbon nanotubes can compete with silicon in terms of performance, and since they may allow transistors to be made much smaller, they are promising candidates for a future nanoelectronic technology. This new process gives us a practical way of making nanotube
transistors, which is essential for future mass production."