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A breakthrough in IBM research will allow the use of carbon nanotubes in addition to and later instead of silicon in electronics

In an article published in the journal Science, scientists from the IBM company announced that they had found a new way to shrink the contacts of the transistors, without compromising the performance of devices powered by carbon nanotubes, thus opening a new way to create dramatically faster, smaller and more powerful computer chips, beyond the capabilities of the traditional semiconductors. IBM invests 3 billion dollars a year in research and development

Carbon nanotubes as an additional layer on the silicon chip will initially allow the construction of chips with junctions less than 10 nanometers in size. Illustration: The article by IBM researchers in the journal Science
Carbon nanotubes as an additional layer on the silicon chip will initially allow the construction of chips with junctions less than 10 nanometers in size. Illustration: The article by IBM researchers in the journal Science

IBM has announced a significant engineering breakthrough, which may accelerate the replacement of silicon transistors with carbon nanotubes, as the core of future computing technology.
IBM scientists have found a new way to shrink the contacts of the transistors, without compromising the performance of devices powered by carbon nanotubes, thus opening a new way to create dramatically faster, smaller and more powerful computer chips, beyond the capabilities of traditional semiconductors.

The results were published in the October 2 issue of the journal Science, carbon nanotubes represent a new class of semiconductor materials that contain a single atomic layer of carbon folded into a tube. The carbon nanotubes form the core of the transistor, whose improved electrical properties will provide several generations of technological upgrade beyond the physical limitations of silicon.
With this breakthrough, IBM overcame a major obstacle facing attempts to miniaturize technology. Two factors affect the size of the transistors: the channel and its two contacts. As devices become smaller, the increase in contact resistance of carbon nanotubes has hurt the performance achieved so far. The results obtained in this research may help overcome the problems of contact resistance up to 1.8 nanometer size junctions - a technology that is four generations away from the current technology.
Chips with carbon nanotubes can significantly improve the capabilities of extremely powerful computers, enable faster analysis of big data data, increase the power and battery life of mobile devices and the "Internet of Things" and enable cloud data centers to provide services in a more efficient and cost-effective manner .

Silicon transistors, which are tiny switches that transfer information on a chip, have been miniaturized over the years, but they are now reaching the limit of their miniaturization capability. Since Moore's law is coming to an end, reducing the size of the transistor - including the size of the channels and contacts - without compromising performance, has been a complex problem that has occupied researchers for decades.

IBM has previously demonstrated that carbon nanotube transistors can operate excellent switches with channel dimensions smaller than ten nanometers - a thickness 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, and less than half of today's most advanced silicon technology. IBM's new approach to contacts overcomes the second major hurdle to incorporating carbon nanotubes into semiconductor devices, which could lead to smaller chips with better performance and lower power consumption.
IBM says that these innovations in the field of chips are necessary to meet the engineering requirements of cloud computing, the Internet of Things and big data systems. As silicon technology approaches its physical limits, new materials and devices and new circuit architectures must be prepared to create the new technologies that will be required in the age of cognitive computing.

This breakthrough shows that the computer chips made of carbon nanotubes will be able to operate the systems of the future sooner than expected.
Earlier this summer, IBM unveiled the first test chip with a 7nm silicon junction, thus setting a new benchmark in silicon technologies while promising further innovations for IBM systems and the IT industry. By advancing research into carbon nanotubes to replace traditional silicon devices, IBM is paving the way for a post-silicon future, delivering results for the $3 billion investment in chip research and development announced in July 2014.

For an article in the journal Science

Comments

  1. Does anyone know about what kit and in what years the first domestic chips with carbon tubes should enter the market? Or at least in what decade it should happen.

  2. IBM is connecting this feat with its synaptic cognitive chip. I know how a neural network works but not how neurological computation works.

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