Scientists have found a way to enhance high-speed and power-efficient technologies through the use of carbon nanotubes, paving the way for the potential development of faster computer chips.
Reporting the findings of the study in Nature Nanotechnology on Monday, scientists say they have found that when packed closely together on a background surface in precise locations using new technique-based innovations, carbon nanotubes can display excellent electronic assets that could be used in the development of much advanced computer chip technology.
It has long been known that the long semiconducting strands of carbon are more efficient and better electronically than the currently used chip technologies, which generally speaking are made of silicon.
However, scientists have been battling to find ways to combine multiple strands, as the nanotubes have not thus far interacted sufficiently to achieve desired results.
One of the scientists on the project, Dr James Hannon of IBM, explained the importance of the findings to the BBC, saying: “That’s one nanotube every 150 or 200 (billionths of a metre) or so… That’s not good enough to make a microprocessor yet – it’s a factor of 10 away. But it’s a factor of 100 better than has been done previously.”
Thus, while conceding that science still has some way to go before a new super high-speed and power-efficient device is achieved, Dr Hannon concluded that: “But this at least gives us a way to gain performance while shrinking the device.”
Scientists – and technology actors alike – have been focusing on finding new technologies to use on computer chips, as efforts to make smaller and faster electronic devices will soon hit a wall as the potential to further innovate new manipulations for current silicon technologies runs out.
As such, the success reported in Monday’s study is a very positive step for science and the industry, as it points to the possibility that new technologies to replace silicon may not be as far beyond the grasp of human ability as was thus far thought.
The scientists in their report found two ways of facilitating the manipulation of nanotubes, to allow them to be closely positioned together.
The first method saw nanotubes coated in a chemical that enables the nanotubes to dissolve in water.
The second method saw the nanotubes coated in a solution that when dipped in a combination of chemicals was seen binding to the element hafnium found in the mix (desirable), but did not bind to silicon (also a desirable outcome).
The conclusions to be drawn, then, are that methods do exist which allow the binding of carbon nanotubes close together on a background sheet, in the way that would be necessary in the development of computer chip technologies.