I.B.M.scientists are reporting progress in a chip-making technology that is
likely to ensure that the basic digital switch at the heart of modern
microchips will continue to shrink for more than a decade.
The advance, first described in the journal Nature Nanotechnology on
Sunday, is based on carbon nanotubes — exotic molecules that have long
held out promise as an alternative to silicon from which to create the
tiny logic gates now used by the billions to create microprocessors and
Carbon nanotubes are tiny wires that can conduct digital computer signals at five or 10 times the speed of traditional silicon chips. They have been around since the 1990s, but researchers have had a tough time getting them to behave. When they try to line these wires together in a useful grid as part of a computer design, the wires have a tendency to behave like wet spaghetti noodles.
[...] For the first time since research began on these carbon nanotubes, IBM has succeeded in placing them with near-perfect accuracy on the surface of a silicon chip in order to make electronic circuits.
Guha said the accomplishment is big one, though there are several obstacles that still stand in the way of mass production.
If those challenges are met, then we will see a huge leap in computing performance, as microprocessors for everything from PCs to smartphones will be able to take advantage of the technological advance. They could have applications in integrated circuits, energy storage and conversion, biomedical sensing, and DNA sequencing.