Print 24 comment(s) - last by killerroach.. on Apr 28 at 12:59 PM

45nm? 32nm? Stop playing around Intel, AMD! 1nm is where it's at.

Transistors, transistors, transistors -- the building block of every processor core we know and love. The more transistors engineers can pack into a processor, the more performance they can squeeze out of it. Rather than making processors larger, incurring all sorts of evil problems, the lithography process for etching silicon wafers to create processor cores with has been refined a hundred, maybe even a thousand-fold since its inception.

Current generation mainstream processors are floating at around 45nm transistors with Intel's Penryn chips. Penryn holds about 205 million transistors per core in its die structure, with all four cores in a quad-core chip able to fit inside the area of a dime. Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing even boasted about 32nm cores in design as long ago as 2006.

Thus far, chip engineers have been able to keep a tenuous grasp on Moore's law, which states that the number of transistors on a microchip will double every two years. Gorden Moore, who coined the idea in 1965, feels that time is running out for his now-famous prognostication with the limits of silicon lithography rapidly approaching. Many scientists and engineers feel that 10nm will be the death knell for silicon transistors.

Worry not, readers, carbon has your back. Back in March of 2007, DailyTech reported on graphene transistors. Professor Andre Geim and Dr. Kostya Novoselov at the University of Manchester's School of Physics and Astronomy announced a transistor made of graphene that measured just one atom thick and less than 50 wide. Now, they say, they've done even better, having improved their process and created a transistor one atom thick and a mere ten atoms wide. The pair claims to have a working 1nm graphene transistor.

Obviously such a ludicrously small transistor would, possibly not revolutionize, but allow the current semiconductor industry to delve even further into chip shrinkage, packing tens or hundreds of millions more transistors into a single core, or allowing many more cores to be used in the same area as current quad-core microchips.

Combined with graphene circuitry, these new ultra-small transistors could, in fact, produce microdevices of all kinds that are much more micro than in their current lives.

All the latest research pretty much agrees, silicon is out, carbon is in. Between buckyballs, carbon nanotubes, graphene, and whatever else scientists manage to cook up from the abundant element, there isn't much that carbon can't beat silicon on. The next step in computing seems to be The C; past that, get ready for yes-no-maybe quantum computing.

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Carbon Nanotubes etc
By gyranthir on 4/21/2008 11:33:52 AM , Rating: 5
Definitely not that easy yet. We are only at the beginnings of this technology.

Although very cool, expect at least a 5-15 year gap for this to even begin to see scalable procedures for production and past that testing and production. Silicon has been around forever and as much as the prognosticators are claiming it's a dead tech, it's not going away any time soon.

RE: Carbon Nanotubes etc
By LeviBeckerson on 4/21/2008 12:02:16 PM , Rating: 4
Definitely true. Though the process seems to be similar to silicon lithography, producing the graphene cleanly and economically will likely be a stumbling block for a while.

Though Gabriel's article mentions 2025 as a target, I wouldn't be surprised if engineers come up with something much much sooner. We continue to be shocked by the rapid rate of technological advancement, and the massive amounts of research pouring into all these carbon constructs is going to make things go pretty quickly.

At least I like to optimistically think so, since it's all pretty keen to me.

RE: Carbon Nanotubes etc
By vignyan on 4/21/08, Rating: -1
RE: Carbon Nanotubes etc
By phxfreddy on 4/21/2008 7:34:29 PM , Rating: 2
I second the thought. The money involved is huge.

RE: Carbon Nanotubes etc
By MicahK on 4/21/2008 9:50:38 PM , Rating: 3
Because one involves silicon and the other carbon, I imagine that the manufacturing process will have to be developed from scratch and new facilities built...

This will require years of R&D to scale this up to a process that can be mass produced...

So I wouldn't be holding my breath

RE: Carbon Nanotubes etc
By hcahwk19 on 4/21/2008 12:03:54 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely. Even if 10nm is the end of the road for silicon transistor size, we are still basically at 45nm to 65nm, depending on what processor is being utilized, whether it be Intel, AMD, or Nvidia/ATI processors. We are still months/years away from 32nm being introduced to the consumer market, and even longer before that size becomes mainstream. So, in reality, we probably do have close to 10 years before we reasonably approach the 10nm limit for silicon in consumer products. Maybe by that time, the graphene technology will be refined enough so that a transition to <10nm transistors can be done economically.

RE: Carbon Nanotubes etc
By gyranthir on 4/21/2008 12:14:20 PM , Rating: 2
A lot of this was discussed on Slashdot recently.

RE: Carbon Nanotubes etc
By mattclary on 4/21/2008 3:39:01 PM , Rating: 2
Well, unless AMD gets upity again and Intel needs to pull something out it's butt to get back on top again.

I'm made of carbon too!
By ShadowZERO on 4/21/2008 4:59:40 PM , Rating: 2
Aren't humans, and pretty much every form of life on earth, made of mostly carbon atoms? I'm too lazy to look it up, but I think humans are about 80% carbon, and other atoms make up a very small fraction of our bodies.

RE: I'm made of carbon too!
By PKmjolnir on 4/21/2008 6:25:54 PM , Rating: 2
RE: I'm made of carbon too!
By Manch on 4/21/2008 6:28:07 PM , Rating: 2
I googled it(bored). Babies are on average up to 78% water. Adult men 65%, Women 55%, less though if you're fat.

RE: I'm made of carbon too!
By Captin Crunch on 4/21/2008 10:08:19 PM , Rating: 2
RE: I'm made of carbon too!
By winterspan on 4/21/2008 11:32:04 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, mostly water... So that would be mostly Oxygen and Hydrogen. Although I can see why people wouldn't "count" water since it isn't exactly PART of the structure. In that case, you are correct, Carbon would be the most abundant element since our body is overwhelmingly made up of organic compounds (aka carbon containing).
All the primary components of the body are made of carbon-structured compounds.

- proteins and amino acids
- lipids for cell membranes/fatty acids/hormones
- carbohydrates aka glycogen and glucose

RE: I'm made of carbon too!
By sld on 4/22/2008 11:40:51 AM , Rating: 2
It IS part of the body if the body cannot do without it. You're better off removing the variability of water content, not the entire water content.

RE: I'm made of carbon too!
By Garreye on 4/21/2008 11:35:12 PM , Rating: 2
80% Carbon!? Someone better put this guy through the Cylon detector!

By BigPeen on 4/21/2008 9:53:42 PM , Rating: 2
Everyone seems to be missing the fact that silicon is not the only material integrated circuit and electronic devices are made out of. GaN is another one (short wavelength lasers, high speed transistors, etc.) It has been around since the early 90's, and it STILL is WAYYYY more expensive to work with. The crystal growth process is much more expensive and more difficult. It'll be another 10 years till it gets even remotely close to silicon, so remember that when talking about carbon stuff.

By Black69ta on 4/22/2008 2:05:54 AM , Rating: 2
Gallium is over twice the Atomic weight of Silicon 69.xx to 28.xx, and thus diameter would be larger too, correct? So how could GaN make a smaller transistor than Si?

By BigPeen on 4/22/2008 10:35:25 AM , Rating: 2
It not so much about making smaller transistors or devices, its about different. I don't know much about the transistor side of GaN, I only work in the photonic devices (lasers, LED's etc.) but there is are some properties of GaN that make it useful in transistors.

By jlips6 on 4/22/2008 12:09:35 PM , Rating: 2
atomic weight figures in the density of an atom, it's the valence level that determines the size. (nucleus is incomparably small to the electron field no matter how many protons/neutrons you add.)so galium would be heavier, not so much larger. even then, the space between atoms determines the space it takes up more than atom size, so galium will take up the same amount of space as silicon, even with it's extra valence level.

By BigPeen on 4/22/2008 3:18:53 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with you. But there are other factors in the speed of the chip v. the size of the transistors, thats my only point.

Carbon transistors, hmm?
By killerroach on 4/21/2008 12:18:45 PM , Rating: 1
So does that mean when we fry one of these due to overclocking, we have to pay penance to Al Gore now?

(Wait... probably having to do that anyway due to the amount of juice an OC'd proc sucks down. I should get on that... or not)

RE: Carbon transistors, hmm?
By jlips6 on 4/22/2008 12:10:44 PM , Rating: 2
i don't think al gore knows what overclocking is.
What's his job anyway? I'm pretty sure it's not computer related though.

RE: Carbon transistors, hmm?
By killerroach on 4/28/2008 12:59:02 PM , Rating: 2
Well, among other things he's on the board of directors at Apple...

...wait. Still wouldn't help with knowledge of overclocking :)

By SiliconJon on 4/21/2008 1:50:22 PM , Rating: 2
So much for SiliconJon, I better change my name to CarbonJon unless I want to get dated! (pun intended)

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