Oct. 29, 2012 at 1:47 PM ET
The ability to fashion computer chips out of carbon nanotubes will allow the trend of ever smaller, faster and more powerful chips to keep apace for several more decades, according to researchers.
The breakthrough reported Sunday by scientists at IBM Research comes as the routine shrinkage of computer chips every 12 to 18 months known as Moore’s Law was hitting a physical limit.
Traditionally, transistors — the switches on a chip that carry digital information — are made of silicon. Today’s silicon transistors are approaching the atomic scale — a physical limit — as their speed and performance gains are stalling due to the nature of the material.
“In recent years, while chip makers have continued to double the number of transistors on chips, their performance, measured as ‘clock speed,’ has largely stalled,” the New York Times reported.
The researchers at IBM embedded more than 10,000 carbon nanotube transistors on a silicon chip. Electrons in carbon transistors can move easier than in silicon-based devices. The tubes are also ideally shaped for transistors at the nanoscale, the company explained in a news release.
“These qualities are among the reasons to replace the traditional silicon transistor with carbon — and coupled with new chip design architectures — will allow computing innovation on a miniature scale for the future,” the news release reads.
Hurdles going forward include getting ultra-pure carbon and perfecting the manufacturing process. If progress continues apace, this should come about sometime after the end of the decade, IBM said.
The breakthrough was described Sunday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
— via New York Times