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April 25, 2016

Carbon nanotubes scaling up to surpass single-story silicon

Team behind the first carbon nanotube computer now leading efforts in new high-rise chip architecture

A Stanford University engineering team has been busy bringing its grand achievement of 2013 -- the world's first carbon nanotube computer -- to a grand scale by making the performance competitive with silicon-based processors. And the researchers are much closer!

With continued support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), and in collaboration with IBM and other industry leaders, the researchers are now making carbon nanotube transistors that rival conventional silicon. Building a multilayered chip -- carbon nanotube transistors and memory devices stacked on top of each other like the floors of a high rise -- is the Holy Grail for the team.

Ultimately, the researchers are aiming to launch a new generation of electronic devices that are smaller, cheaper, faster and more energy efficient than what is currently available. Their 2013 achievement, the culmination of years of effort by scientists around the world, was a cover story in the journal Nature.

The research in this episode was supported by these NSF awards:

  • #0702343, Collaborative Research: Design, Modeling, Automation and Experimentation of Imperfection Immune Carbon Nanotube Field Effect Transistor Circuits.

  • #0726791, Collaborative Research: Design, Modeling, Automation and Experimentation of Nanoscale Computing Fabric Using Carbon Nanotubes.

  • #1059020, II-NEW: Robust Carbon Nanotube Technology for Energy-Efficient Computing Systems: A Processing and Design Infrastructure for Emerging Nanotechnologies. (II-NEW awards support the creation of new CISE research infrastructure.)

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Kate Tobin, Science Nation Producer

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.