Carbon nanotubes are pretty awesome. In addition to possessing attractive mechanical properties, they're also pretty good at carrying electrons. Researchers have already figured out how to create usable electric cables from the cylindrical carbon structures, and they've started building extremely small transistors using the material. IBM's labs currently house carbon-nanotube transistors as small as nine nanometers.
Later this year, Intel is set to debut 22-nm silicon transitors in Ivy Bridge, its next-generation processor. Silicon probably has at least a few process shrinks left in it, but these new IBM prototypes suggest carbon nanotubes might eventually be a good replacement for use in microprocessors and other integrated circuits. IBM's 9-nm nanotube transistors reportedly have "much lower" power consumption than other transistors of the same size. They're supposed to carry more current that competing silicon designs, too.
Alas, the techniques used to create the nanotube transistor prototypes are "by no means ready for manufacturing." Researchers don't yet have a way to perfectly lay out the massive number of nanotubes that would be required by a modern microprocessor. Making nanotubes that lack metallic impurities has also proven to be challenging.
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