Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Big Blue Thinks Small

If the impending performance limits for conventionally manufactured silicon transistors keep you up at night, new research from IBM may ease your worries.

Big Blue has demonstrated the first working integrated circuit formed on a carbon nanotube. Carbon nanotubes could let fabricators create smaller and faster transistors than they currently can with doped silicon. Until just recently, scientists were only making single transistors on the nanotube substrate, and testing their performance characteristics.

IBM managed to build a ring oscillator on a single carbon nanotube. Manufacturers use ring oscillators to determine how fast integrated circuits made with new fabrication techniques will operate. Up to now, a number of transistors, each built on their own nanotubes, had to be interconnected to build a circuit like a ring oscillator. The new single nanotube oscillator runs about a million times faster than ones constructed from individual nanotubes, according to IBM

But don't put away your Xanax just yet. The new circuit is much faster, but it still isn't as fast as existing silicon circuits. IBM and the rest of the nanotube researchers have a long way to go, but this is a step in the right direction.