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Multi-walled carbon nanotubes 70nm in diameter bridge two electrodes  (Source: Stanford University)
Stanford University researchers design the first GHz chip using carbon nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes are being used in all sorts of research thanks to their strength and much higher electron mobility. Scientists are looking to carbon nanotubes as a replacement for copper wire in circuits, seen to be a bottleneck in future chips.

The problem with using carbon nanotubes in circuits to date has been the difficulty in getting the nanotubes to align correctly on the chips for functional operation. A group of researchers at Stanford University believe they have solved the problem of alignment.

The researchers have developed the world’s first CMOS circuit using carbon nanotubes as an interconnect. The project, carried out in cooperation with Toshiba, fabricated a chip with 256 ring oscillators and 11,000 transistors that operates at 1GHz.

Researcher Philip Wong, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford told EETimes, “A lot of research labs are working toward using nanotubes to interconnect chips since they have higher electron mobility than copper, and can be grown much smaller. But ours is the first working digital chip to run at commercial speeds of 1 gigahertz.”

The problem of alignment with the carbon nanotubes was solved by the researchers by using a process that floated the carbon nanotubes in a solution over the chip. The solution suspended thousands of free-floating nanotubes over the chips surface.

An alternating current was the applied to the ring oscillators thereby attracting a floating nanotube to correct the gap built into the circuitry.  This nanotube clicked into place, completing the "last mile" of the interconnect. Once the nanotube was in place, the circuit was dried off.

The carbon nanotubes used by the researchers were multiwalled, five microns in length and 50 to 100 nanometers in diameter. The researchers say that future versions of the chip could use carbon nanotubes as small as 1nm in diameter.

Mass production of nanotubes themselves is still a daunting task in its own right. DailyTech reported in January 2008 that a group of scientists from South Korea had developed a new method for mass producing aligned carbon nanotubes.

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It seems to me...
By JasonMick on 2/15/2008 3:45:58 PM , Rating: 5
That this method would only be reliable in growing interconnects in certain kinds of chips and/or require additional circuitry. Multiplexing circuitry had to be added according the researchers to apply isolated current to specific oscillators in order to create the alignment effect. It seems like this multiplexing circuitry would have to be greatly expanded in order to auto align multiple interconnects. All this extra transistor overhead/complexity could hinder commercial application

It seems like we're going in the right direction, but still a bit far from a commercial quality solution.

Still great that they're working hard at solving these problems though.

RE: It seems to me...
By maverick85wd on 2/15/2008 4:22:44 PM , Rating: 2
Still great that they're working hard at solving these problems though.

truth, truth

I haven't heard much about optical or magnetic circuits lately, anyone hear anything on those?

A new kind of garbage handeling.
By Clauzii on 2/15/2008 10:44:54 PM , Rating: 2
So, in the future, could we still just crash a computer to bits, without getting nano-particles all over the place?

I really think that's a thing that needs attention, 'cause I don't wanna be a Cyborg with 2,5 billion unusable nano-tubes in my body.

RE: A new kind of garbage handeling.
By teohhanhui on 2/16/2008 1:39:59 AM , Rating: 3

By Clauzii on 2/16/2008 11:04:36 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks, didn't know that word :)

More uses for carbon nanotubes
By sgtdisturbed47 on 2/15/2008 5:19:06 PM , Rating: 2
It's cool to seeing this technology progress even further. This just might be the future of computers, and I'm sure there will also be uses in medicine.

RE: More uses for carbon nanotubes
By Imaginer on 2/16/2008 12:33:51 AM , Rating: 3
And this employee of the month award goes to...

This inanimate carbon rod!

<crowd cheers>

Commercial Speeds?
By SilthDraeth on 2/16/2008 5:46:50 PM , Rating: 2
"But ours is the first working digital chip to run at commercial speeds of 1 gigahertz.”"

As opposed to what? Non commercial speeds of 1 gigahertz?

RE: Commercial Speeds?
By DeepBlue1975 on 2/16/2008 7:58:47 PM , Rating: 2
Now I can imagine Intel or AMD saying something like...

"Unlike our competition, our chips run at REAL COMMERCIAL SPEEDS. Don't settle for less, if your CPU isn't running at 3 commercial ghz, you're just being ripped off by some immoral CPU selling bastards.

And remember: commercial megahertz, you can buy... For the other ones... you only pay money for them."

What I btw. find MOST interesting in the article:
By Clauzii on 2/16/2008 11:29:40 PM , Rating: 2
The technique they used to MAKE that circuit!
So in the far(?) future, a CPU is delivered in a little nanochip-bottle where a single drop on the boxed DIE and some dishwashing-moves, make an specified CPU appear beneath our very own brushes. And then plug it in a wall-outlet for like 5 minutes to "organize" it..!

Amazing stuff indeed :o

By Clauzii on 2/17/2008 12:14:13 AM , Rating: 2
Or even better, just print it :)

Progress, people. Progress;)
By cyyc009 on 2/16/2008 11:31:23 AM , Rating: 2
Technology keeps getting better! Still, anyone else find it scary that computers are becoming more... organic?

By teambarnes on 2/16/2008 3:58:29 PM , Rating: 1
Medicines? You must mean medichines.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
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