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Carbon nanotube beat silicon as transistor material

Posted: 02 Feb 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:carbon nanotube? transistor? silicon?

IBM researchers have discovered that carbon nanotube (CNT) transistors smaller than 10nm outperformed silicon devices in terms of speed and power. This is according to a research paper published in Nano Letters, noted CNET. In addition, CNT transistors work at very low voltage, allowing processors to likewise operate efficiently, added the researchers.

The experiments were intended to test the theoretic performance of CNT transistors, rather than develop new manufacturing processes. But the researchers believed the finding could be significant in the ongoing pursuit of smaller transistors for more computing power.

Carbon nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes are cylinder-shaped structures made of interconnected carbon atoms with properties that could make them a good semiconductor material. (Credit: Michael Strock)

CNTs are hollow cylinder shaped structures made of connected carbon atoms that have been touted for years as a potential semiconductor material. Producing CNTs at scale is one technical challenge to developing computing devices with them. The overwhelming weight of the semiconductor industry infrastructure is based on silicon as well, making introduction of new materials difficult.

carbon nanotube transistor

Drawing of components in a carbon nanotube transistor. (Credit: IBM)

Where CNTs can be significant is miniaturization, stated John Rogers, professor of materials science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The article from CNET also indicated that Intel last year announced it will start using 3D transistors for its 22nm process, a move designed to operate at lower voltage and avoid leakage of current that occurs at this very small scale.

IBM found that CNT transistors at under 10nm outperformed silicon on speed and power better than models had predicted. That means CNTs warrant further research for use as transistors, the building block of microprocessors, IBM said. "The superior low-voltage performance of the sub-10nm CNT transistor proves the viability of nanotubes for consideration in future aggressively scaled transistor technologies," according to a summary of the paper in Nano Letters.

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