IBM wants to replace silicon transistors with carbon nanotubes

Scientists at IBM have come up with a way to create thinner, lighter and more energy efficient computers which are, at the same time, faster and more powerful.

In the shortest and simplest possible terms, they have managed to find a way to transport electrons through a carbon nanotube. The carbon nanotube is a structure 10,000 times smaller than a human hair and can conduct electricity quite well. The scientists have discovered a way to atomically bond a specific type of metal to a carbon nanotube to create an incredibly tiny contact point needed to move electrons through the carbon nanotube without affecting the performance of the chip.

To keep things simple, the general idea is to replace the current silicon transistors with carbon nanotubes and thus keep Moore's Law moving along.

In practice, this means computer makers could make chips which are as close together as three nanometres. They currently sit between 11 and 14 nanometres, and anything closer to that would increase resistance to the point where the chip would start losing on performance.

Earlier this year IBM announced with much fanfare that it had made a chip where the transistors were only 7 nanometres apart.

By advancing research of carbon nanotubes to replace traditional silicon devices, IBM is paving the way for a post-silicon future. “These chip innovations are necessary to meet the emerging demands of cloud computing, Internet of Things and Big Data systems,” said Dario Gil, vice president of Science & Technology at IBM Research.