SAN FRANCISCOŚResearchers 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.
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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.