SAN FRANCISCO—Researchers from IBM Corp. have demonstrated a new approach to carbon nanotechnology that they say opens up the path for commercial fabrication of chips with transistors made of carbon nanotubes.
Many believe that carbon nanotubes will one day replace silicon technology in semiconductors, enabling the continued scaling of chips to smaller feature sizes. Carbon nanotubes have electrical properties that are more attractive than silicon, particularly for building nanoscale transistor devices that are a few tens of atoms across, scientists say.
Claiming a first, IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) said its researchers placed more than 10,000 working nanotube transistors on a single device using standard semiconductor processes. Previously, according to IBM, scientists have been able to place at most a few hundred carbon nanotube devices at a time, not nearly enough to address key issues for commercial applications.
[Get a 10% discount on ARM TechCon 2012 conference passes by using promo code EDIT. Click here to learn about the show and register.]
According to IBM, the new approach paves the way for circuit fabrication with large numbers of carbon nanotube transistors at predetermined substrate positions. Eventually, more than 1 billion nanotube transistors will be needed for future integration into commercial chips, IBM said.
IBM researcher Hongsik Park looks over wafer with 10,000 carbon nanotubes. The wafer was tested in a commercial fab setting at IBM.
"The motivation to work on carbon nanotube transistors is that at extremely small nanoscale dimensions, they outperform transistors made from any other material," said Supratik Guha, director of physical sciences at IBM Research, in a statement. "However, there are challenges to address such as ultra high purity of the carbon nanotubes and deliberate placement at the nanoscale. We have been making significant strides in both."
Carbon nanotubes, borne from chemistry, are being explored by scientists worldwide in applications that span integrated circuits, energy storage and conversion, biomedical sensing and DNA sequencing.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.