Up close photograph of nanotube
MIT researchers have found new ways to cure headaches in manufacturing carbon nanotube processors, which are faster and less power hungry than silicon chips.
A team of academics at MIT has unveiled the world’s most advanced chip yet that’s made from carbon nanotubes—cylinders with walls the width of a single carbon atom. The new microprocessor, which is capable of running a conventional software program, could be an important milestone on the road to finding silicon alternatives.
The electronics industry is struggling with a slowdown in Moore’s Law, which holds that the number of transistors that can be packed on a silicon processor doubles roughly every couple of years. This trend is facing its physical limits: as the sizes of the devices shrink to a few atoms, electrical current is starting to leak from the metallic channels that shuttle it through transistors. The heat that’s released saps semiconductors’ energy efficiency—and may even cause them to fail.