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Sep 26, 2013 09:57 AM EDT

Stanford Engineers Build First Basic Computer Using Carbon Nanotubes

This wafer contains tiny computers using carbon nanotubes.
(Photo : Stanford) This wafer contains tiny computers using carbon nanotubes.

Using carbon nanotubes, Stanford engineers have created the first basic computer that operates faster and consumes less energy when compared to systems made from silicon chips. The research was led by Stanford professors, Subhasish Mitra and H.-S. Philip Wong.

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This creation could lead to an introduction of a new generation of faster and more energy-efficient electronic devices.

"People have been talking about a new era of carbon nanotube electronics moving beyond silicon," said Mitra, an electrical engineer and computer scientist. "But there have been few demonstrations of complete digital systems using this exciting technology. Here is the proof."

Silicon semiconductors are used in most electronic materials. Experts said that silicon chips will soon become incompetent to deliver smaller, faster and cheaper electronic devices.

Scientists used carbon nano-tubes to build the next generation semiconductors. Though carbon nanotube conducts electricity in a limited manner but it is a tough flexible and super-thin material.

"Carbon nanotubes [CNTs] have long been considered as a potential successor to the silicon transistor," said Professor Jan Rabaey, a world expert on electronic circuits and systems at the University of California-Berkeley. "There is no question that this will get the attention of researchers in the semiconductor community and entice them to explore how this technology can lead to smaller, more energy-efficient processors in the next decade."

Mihail Roco, a senior advisor for nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation, hailed the Stanford creation calling it 'an important scientific breakthrough.'

"First, they put in place a process for fabricating CNT-based circuits," De Micheli said. "Second, they built a simple but effective circuit that shows that computation is doable using CNTs."

"It's not just about the CNT computer. It's about a change in directions that shows you can build something real using nanotechnologies that move beyond silicon and its cousins," Mitra said:

The achievement was reported in an article on the cover of the journal Nature.

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