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The next silicon?

Time:2015-08-20

Researchers at IBM have revealed a groundbreaking technique that could one day replace silicon in computer chips.

The team have developed a new technique to mass produce carbon nanotubes that could create dramatically smaller, faster chips.

For the first time, the team revealed they have created a carbon 'chip' with more than ten thousand working transistors made of nano-sized tubes of carbon, which have been precisely placed and tested in a single.

IBM researcher Hongsik Park with different solutions of carbon nanotubes, which IBM believe could replace silicon in computer chips.

IBM researcher Hongsik Park with different solutions of carbon nanotubes, which IBM believe could replace silicon in computer chips.

'These carbon devices are poised to replace and outperform silicon technology allowing further miniaturization of computing components and leading the way for future microelectronics, IBM said.

Aided by rapid innovation over four decades, silicon microprocessor technology has continually shrunk in size and improved in performance, thereby driving the information technology revolution. 

However, their increasingly small dimensions, now reaching the nanoscale, have reached the limits of performance due to the nature of silicon and the laws of physics. 

Expert believe that the future may be carbon nanotubes.

Electrons in carbon transistors can move easier than in silicon-based devices allowing for quicker transport of data.

The nanotubes are also ideally shaped for transistors at the atomic scale, an advantage over silicon according to IBM's team.

Nanotubes (pictured), single atomic sheets of carbon rolled up into a tube, are printed on the nanopaper along with a dielectric ink and a semiconducting ink to create the transistor

Roll up: Nanotubes (pictured), single atomic sheets of carbon rolled up into a tube, are printed on the nanopaper along with a dielectric ink and a semiconducting ink to create the transistor

The carbon nanotubes are mixed with a form of soap in the production process to make them soluble in water

The carbon nanotubes are mixed with a form of soap in the production process to make them soluble in water

IBM says its carbon nanotubes can replace silicon in computer chips to create smaller, faster circuits

IBM says its carbon nanotubes can replace silicon in computer chips to create smaller, faster circuits

'Carbon nanotubes, borne out of chemistry, have largely been laboratory curiosities as far as microelectronic applications are concerned,' said Supratik Guha, Director of Physical Sciences at IBM Research.

'We are attempting the first steps towards a technology by fabricating carbon nanotube transistors within a conventional wafer fabrication infrastructure.

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