|6/21/2015 by mdc|
|Kristin Majcher reports that scientists have been studying ways to use nanotubes in computers for years, but the material has proved difficult to work with. The hallmark of advancement in the electronics industry has been the ability to squeeze more and more transistors onto computer chips. But as the chips have become denser, it has become trickier to make their tiniest features with the traditional method, photolithography, in which light is used to etch patterns. |
By 2020, the smallest features on chips could be as minuscule as five nanometers, down from 14 nanometers today. That is why the idea of replacing silicon with nanotubes, tiny cylinders of carbon atoms, has been appealing since the 1990s. These tubes are smaller than a nanometer wide, which means they could be packed very densely on chips. And because they have low electrical resistance, computers based on them could perform better and require less energy.
It has been hard to scale up the material to replace the billions of transistors in electronics today, which requires aligning and spacing the nanotubes in a very specific way. However, several labs and companies still think nanotube-based chips will be commercialized someday. Here is an update on their progress.