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IBM Details Possible Silicon Successor

By @NY Staff

IBM Researchers say they have passed another milestone regarding research into carbon-based transistors that could pave the way for their replacement of silicon transistors in computers.

In an article to appear in the May 20 issue of the scientific journal Applied Physics Letters, the IBM research team detail their work with carbon nanotubes (CNTs) -- tube-shaped molecules made of carbon atoms that are 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. They write that the carbon-based prototypes outperformed the leading silicon transistor prototypes available today.

The researchers said the nanotube transistors they created produce more than twice the speed of electrical currents compared to top-performing silicon transistor prototypes.

The research is detailed in an article entitled "Vertical Scaling of Carbon Nanotube Field-Effect Transistors Using Top Gate Electrodes" by Shalom Wind, Joerg Appenzeller, Richard Martel, Vincent Derycke and Phaedon Avouris of IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Although commercial prototypes of the carbon nanotubes could be as many as 10 years away, the research suggests that the nanotubes could be forerunners of new transistors to replace silicon, as the clock on Moore's Law ticks off. When Gordon Moore, one of the co-counders of Intel, predicted that the amount of data that could be stored on silicon would double every every 18 months, Microchip experts also accepted that the law's days would be numbered.

"Carbon nanotubes are already the top candidate to replace silicon when current chip features just can't be made any smaller, a physical barrier expected to occur in about 10 to 15 years," said Dr. Phaedon Avouris, manager of nanoscale science, IBM Research.

"Proving that carbon nanotubes outperform silicon transistors opens the door for more research related to the commercial viability of nanotubes."