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IBM Scientists Find New Way to Shrink Transistors

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A set of ultra-tiny nanotube transistors made by IBM.

Scientists at IBM say they have developed a method for making transistors from carbon nanotubes.

Credit: IBM Research

IBM scientists on Thursday reported they have found a method for making transistors from parallel rows of carbon nanotubes, based on a new way to link ultrathin metal wires to the tubes. They say this makes it possible to continue miniaturizing the width of the wires without boosting electrical resistance, which may be key to upgrading the currently stalled speed of computer processors.

The researchers speculate the likelihood of shrinking the contact point between the two materials to only 40 atoms in width will happen sometime after 2020, and then reducing it to only 28 atoms three years later.

In their normal state, carbon nanotubes form a giant mass of interwoven molecules, but researchers have coaxed them to align closely and in regularly spaced rows on silicon wafers so they can function as a semiconductor.

IBM Research's Dario Gil says carbon nanotubes are a leading candidate to replace silicon as the favored base material for chip manufacturers.

Over the last decade, the chip industry has faced physical limitations such as an increase of heat affecting switching speed, while the decline of transistor costs with each new chip generation has halted. The promise of carbon nanotube field-effect transistors is rekindling optimism in the industry, and the IBM researchers say they have modeled microprocessors optimized either for high performance or low power consumption.

From The New York Times
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