Although a handheld Watson won't be coming to the retail store anytime soon, Wong did summarize recent progress with carbon nanotubes. For example, one study showed the material could deliver devices competitive with today's 28 nm silicon parts.
"In the last five or six years, multiple academic and industrial research labs have grown very well aligned carbon nanotubes and used conventional lithography and fab techniques to build circuits with them," he said.
He noted two papers on the topic from the VLSI Symposium in June. He also described work on a carbon nanotube computer described in 2013 that ran two programs using an MIPS instruction set.
Wong noted three challenges ahead for the material. It is not suitable for the high-temperature doping processes used in today's chip fabs. Researchers still need to improve the purity of the material they grow. And, like all transistor materials, it faces challenges when contacts scale to increasingly small sizes.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times