A team of Stanford researchers has unveiled a computer that is built entirely on carbon nanotube (CNT) transistors. These tubes are actually a form of carbon with excellent on-again off-again electrical properties. Their efforts show that CNT chips may be able to replace silicon-based ones in the future.
This is considered a breakthrough as carbon nanotube technology is seen as way to overcome the physical limit of silicon. According to Moore's Law, the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit board can be doubled roughly every two years. However, as the silicon chips get thinner, it leads to two major issues; they are heat and electron leakage. These issues will not allow the fabrication process to improve any further, effectively spelling the end to Moore's Law.
A carbon nanotube (CNT) is essentially a group of cylinder-shaped carbon molecules with excellent on-again off-again electrical properties. Such properties are important for transistors. And with their nanoscale dimensions, they are able to be packed onto a single chip. The Stanford researchers have managed to construct a computer with such a chip, and the system functions on a multitasking operation system.
At the same time, the computer's chip is able to process simple commercial MIPS instruction sets. This proves the research group's point that the machine can be improved for commercial usage in the future. According to the New York Times, the Stanford Robust Systems Group has made much progress over 18 months, from "building individual carbon nanotube transistors" to showcasing their "complete computer made from an ensemble of just 142 low-power transistors" last week. The group's vision of nanocomputing is in line with what theoretical physicist Michio Kaku had in mind when he said that molecular computers were the way to go. For more information, please head over to the New York Times here.
(Source: New York Times)