Carbon nanotubes will power the next generation of CPUs

Researchers out of Stanford have taken the next step towards the future computing. For many years, we’ve seen the development of CPUs continue to smash theoretical barriers and continue...

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Researchers out of Stanford have taken the next step towards the future computing. For many years, we’ve seen the development of CPUs continue to smash theoretical barriers and continue to follow Moore’s law. In 1989 chips were using 800nm, by 2006 that shrunk to 65nm and Intel will ship the first 14nm chip early next year. Predictions estimate that the semiconductor manufacturing process will be be down to 5nm by 2022.

imageWe are however rapidly approaching what’s technically possible using silicon and transistors, the standard material in today’s circuits. In a paper in the journal Nature, researchers reported that they have created a working computer (a extremely simple one). This is the first built entirely from transistors made from carbon nanotubes.

Cylinder-shaped nanotubes have thought to be the solution for quite some time, but only now have they started to become a reality. The technology allows for smaller, faster and lower-powered computing, basically everything modern day mobile computing demands.

In the past couple of years, Stanford researchers have progressed from individual carbon nanotube transistors, to building simple electronic circuits by interconnecting the transistors. From there, they progressed to this week make a complete computer made from just 142 low-power transistors.

“It can run two programs concurrently, a counting program and a sorting program,” said H. S. Philip Wong, a Stanford University electrical engineer, and one of the leaders of the group. “We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time on this; in fact we’ve spent two generations of students on this.”

“This is a general computer and we can do anything with it,” said Max Shulaker, a Stanford graduate student who is a leading member of the research group. “We could in principle run 64-bit Windows, but it would take millions of years.”

More info at The New York Times and Nature.

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Hardware

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