Silicon may soon be a secondary source of material for microchip design as researchers hone in on new technologies that may finally make carbon nanotubes a revolutionary component of next generation chip design. The theory isn’t new, and many have hypothesized in the past that these microscopic structures might be capable of accelerating chip speeds to as much as ten times faster than today’s silicon examples while using far less electricity in the process.
Faster and lighter more power efficient chips would be crucial to the kinds of mobile devices that already exist, but far more important is the fact that carbon nanotubes would also make flexible screens and bendable devices or injectable microchips and nanomachines that could be an important component of medical advancement. A team of IBM researchers now claims to have made a breakthrough that should bring nanotube tech a reality soon.
IBM Research materials scientist George Tulevski, is unveiling the work during TED@IBM, and has explained to media in advance that the new process revolves around coaxing nanotubes into specific structures by using chemistry instead of a top-down approach, which is more similar to growing a crystal than carving a statue.
Tulevski’s work comes on the heels of a previous IBM milestone reached last year when another team developed a new way to pack carbon nanotube transistors into a smaller space. Other companies like Nanotronics Imaging are developing new tools like custom microscopes to make it easier to manufacture nanoscale devices.
Skeptics warn that this new research will take years to yield a working model in the field for commoditization, and during that timeframe silicon chips will continue to become faster as well. So the target is moving because the nanochip teams aren’t really competing with what is already available, they would need to leapfrog years worth of incremental improvements to provide a product capable of dominating a space that silicon has satisfied up to this point.
Still, the notion of a faster, lighter and more malleable chip material would have applications as far ranging as medical science, space travel, convenience electronics and from a Hosting perspective might greatly reduce the environmental footprint of data centers by orders of magnitude that would never be attainable with traditional silicon hardware. That insatiable urge to move technology forward is what has brought us all this far, and NationalNet remains eager to be fully engaged in the next wave of innovation as it becomes available as well.