Feeds

IBM plots 'chip on a molecule'

Silicon on borrowed time?

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

A functioning processor on a single molcule has been created by IBM scientists, offering the possibility of super-fast processing by tiny devices.

The molecule in question is a carbon nanotube. The team at at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, New York, created a type of logic device called a ring oscillator. It consisted of 12 bi-metal field effect transistors laid along the 18 micrometre length of the nanotube.

New Scientist reports developer Joerg Appenzeller explaining: "This isn’t about making the circuits smaller, it’s about making them faster. Nanotubes fit the characteristics we need to advance high-end processing."

Chip designers have long known that they are pushing the limits of conventional silicon technology. The effort to keep up with Moore's Law - which predicts that the number of transistors on a chip will double every 18 months - has meant more and more transistors have been packed onto silicon by improving manufacturing techniques. However this constricts the pathways electrons are able to take and increases resitance in the circuit, limiting its speed.

According to the research paper, published in the journal Science, the chief reason behind the problem is a phenomenon known as plasmonic resonance. An electron’s path is hindered when it becomes coupled with vibrations in the surrounding silicon lattice structure.

But because the carbon nanotube is a single molecule this problem is avoided and resistance much reduced. The upshot is the possibility of circuits running much faster. Technologists reckon it could one day pave the way for affordable near-terahertz processing.

This latest experiment was a proof of the principle that nanotubes can be used as a basis for electronics. The technology is a long way off doing useful computation - the nanochip achieved a 52MHz crawl.

Right now nanotube production is at best a hit and miss operation. The technology would have to be bettered controlled for the chip giants to invest in trying to put nanotech in their products. According to NS one of the team reckons it could be done in five years if a huge investment was made, but believes in reality it will take much longer.®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.