World's first carbon nanotube computer emerges after years of work

By on September 26, 2013, 11:15 AM
ibm, research, computer, silicon, stanford, carbon nanotubes, carbon nanotube computer

A team of researchers from Stanford University have revealed the first-ever computer based on carbon nanotubes, the material that is widely expected to replace silicon as the building block of future computers.

Max Shulaker, a co-author on the paper announcing the build, said this is the most complex electronic ever built with carbon nanotubes. He noted there has been a lot of hype around this field but some weren’t actually sure if carbon nanotubes could be used in a practical manner like this.

Building on previous work from IBM and several others, the machine they have built is extremely basic. It consists of just 178 transistors and runs a simple operating system that is able to count and sort numbers. It may not sound like much but it has taken years of hard work to reach this milestone using carbon nanotubes.

As the name suggests, carbon nanotubes are small cylinders constructed of carbon atoms. When used as transistors, their small size means many of them can fit onto a single chip compared to silicon transistors. Small size and other attributes like high conductivity and speedy on-off ability would in theory lead to faster and more efficient computing.

One of the hurdles the team had to overcome, however, was the unpredictability of carbon nanotubes. Sometimes they tend to self-assemble which can lead to them taking on metallic properties – ultimately causing a short circuit. As you can imagine, a chip with a billion transistors with unpredictable behavior isn’t exactly ideal.

Those challenges were overcome using a process known as imperfection-immune design. Along with a special algorithm, they claim it’s scalable to support industrial manufacturing which means it could start to compete with silicon.




User Comments: 13

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4 people like this | RzmmDX said:

Finally we can stop having more cores at some point in the future.

And oh shit, PCs are going to be expensive again.

Spykezxp Spykezxp said:

Finally we can stop having more cores at some point in the future.

And oh shit, PCs are going to be expensive again.

I was just thinking the same thing myself. This is definitely going to drive the cost up of not only computers, but anything they use it in. Not saying its gonna be anytime soon, but it will happen. Its good to see that the tech age is still growing and trying new things, not just repeatedly hitting itself against the "Brick Wall".

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

Finally we can stop having more cores at some point in the future.

And oh shit, PCs are going to be expensive again.

Did I miss something? Were computers ever cheap? Yes they dropped in price radically over time but I've never known them to be 'cheap', just 'cheaper', unless you're taking the 2nd hand market into account as well.

Guest said:

Not to downplay the significance, but 178 transistors is hardly a computer.

Khanonate said:

Not to downplay the significance, but 178 transistors is hardly a computer.

It's not by the numbers of transistors...it's "computing" numbers.

JC713 JC713 said:

I think the advantages of this technology will justify the price tag.

Guest said:

Not to argue, but if it computes, it's a computer. Proof-of-concepts don't need to be extravagant, just scalable, which they say this is.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

If quantum computing continues at its current pace, we may not have a need for such technology.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Finally we can stop having more cores at some point in the future.

And oh shit, PCs are going to be expensive again.

No they won't. There's no need to stop making PCs out of silicon. Look at electric cars... they'll replace gasoline engines someday, but until the prices goes down enough they won't be too popular. And we have a need to stop using gas. There's nothing wrong with silicon, it just can't run as fast as we may want in the future.

Whatever comes after silicon probably won't replace it. They'll be sold side by side for as long as making electronics out of silicon is profitable.

ElShotte ElShotte said:

Scientists at IBM?s T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. are making substantial progress on what is expected to be the successor to silicon-based microprocessors. Carbon nanotubes have been arranged on the surface of a silicon wafer to create a hybrid chip with more than 10,000 working transistors.

IBM was able to create a chip with 10,000 carbon nanotube transistors, now all you need to do is implement imperfection-immune design, and you have a fully functional chip. Yes, I am super excited to see that someone is doing something revolutionary for CPU tech instead of just improving current silicon.

Moxiy Moxiy said:

Wow I like this. Il watch this space to see where all this leads to.

avoidz avoidz said:

Impressive and interesting. Could be some 10 or 20 years away from manufacturing though, yes?

Guest said:

Why is not photonics a better bet?

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