Email Print Share

"Carbon-based Computer" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio
The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.

Engineers at Stanford University have built and successfully tested the world's first computer based on carbon nanotube technology instead of silicon chips.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Goodbye Mr. Chips?

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

A major milestone in technical innovation, thanks to the work of a team of Stanford engineers. They have built and successfully tested the world's first computer based on carbon nanotube technology instead of silicon chips; could be the birth of a new generation of electronic devices that run substantially faster, cooler and more energy-efficiently.

For decades, progress in electronics has meant shrinking the size of transistors to pack more on a chip. But as transistors become tinier they waste more power and generate more heat--enough to give you a case of: "Lap burn" (Sound effect: ouch!) you've felt it with your own laptop.

Using carbon nanotubes instead of silicon chips means more efficient conductors, so thin you can fit a ton of them in a small space: Thousands fit in the width of a human hair (Sound effect: cartoon hair pluck). It takes less energy to switch them off and they run a lot cooler.

The researchers' carbon nanotube computer can count and do number sorting, and is able to switch between the two. Hey, it's a start. They hope others will be inspired by this breakthrough to help develop this new kind of computer technology for the future. Faster, better, smaller, cooler. "nano-tubular".

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

MP3 icon
NSF podcasts are in mp3 format for easy download to desktop and laptops, as well as mobile devices capable of playing them.