Carbon nanotube transistors finally out perform their traditional silicon counterparts.


The computing industry has long seen carbon nanotube transistors as something of a Holy Grail – promising not just faster performance but also lower power consumption than their silicon based equivalents. And it has long been thought that if researchers could harness carbon nanotube technology then they could slow, or even reverse the demise of  Moore’s Law and overcome some of the performance per watt problems highlighted by Dennard’s Scaling Law.


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However, up until recently their real-world speed has always lagged behind conventional technology and now University of Wisconsin Madison researchers have created what they say are the first carbon nanotube transistors that outpace modern silicon.


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Apparently the trick was to find a way to find almost entirely pure carbon nanotubes, eliminating more of the imperfections that would limit their semiconducting traits. Researchers had to assemble the nanotubes on a wafer using an exact order and spacing through polymers, and cook the resulting arrays in a vacuum over to remove an insulating layer between the nanotubes and the electrodes needed for the transistor. The end product manages a current 1.9 times higher than in silicon.


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There’s plenty of refinement left before you see carbon nanotubes in practical chips and going from the lab to full commercialisation of an emerging technology takes time but for now another barrier has fallen. The team still has to adapt its current product to the geometry of a conventional silicon transistor, and it has to scale the technology in a way that would work for mass production. If the university manages to pull this off, though, the breakthrough could have a very tangible impact on just about every device you use. You could expect more raw number crunching power, of course, but you’d also get longer battery life and faster wireless data.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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