Are we witnessing the end of silicon microprocessors -- and will it result in incredible supercomputers?
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison may have just stumbled on something big — something that may totally change the future of computing. The scientists there created a carbon nanotube transistor that was almost twice as fast as a typical silicon-based microprocessor, and the discovery could lead to phones and computer with longer battery lives and much faster processing power than today’s chips.
Scientists in the field of nanotechnology have been trying to achieve this for hte past two decades, but until now it had eluded them. Carbon nanontubes are basically straws made out of carbon that are just an atom thick and are flexible while still being stronger than steel. They are also very conductive, making them perfect for handling lots of electrical current.
But it’s been tough to develop them, but it’s hard to isolate pure carbon nanotubes as they often have small metallic impurities that interfere with their semiconducting. But a new production technique was able to get around this problem, and the results were fantastic.
“This achievement has been a dream of nanotechnology for the last 20 years,” Michael Arnold, UW-Madison professor of materials science and engineering, said in the statement. “Making carbon nanotube transistors that are better than silicon transistors is a big milestone. This breakthrough in carbon nanotube transistor performance is a critical advance toward exploiting carbon nanotubes in logic, high-speed communications, and other semiconductor electronics technologies.”
“There has been a lot of hype about carbon nanotubes that hasn’t been realized, and that has kind of soured many people’s outlook,” he added. “But we think the hype is deserved. It has just taken decades of work for the materials science to catch up and allow us to effectively harness these materials.”