Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

IBM Nanotechnology Transistor Faster than Silicon 154

Dustin Destree writes: "This article on MSNBC talks about how IBM has developed a new transistor based on nanotube technology that at its first stages outperforms even the fastest silicon transistor. Interesting read that gives ideas about where the computer industry is heading in the next few years."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

IBM Nanotechnology Transistor Faster than Silicon

Comments Filter:
  • Used more than three-hundred hours
    hoses your data
    • by tenman ( 247215 ) < a i . com> on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:28PM (#3552362) Journal
      That is if they are used for 300hrs consecutively... If the technology is fast enough, they will have rolling blackouts inside the processors. That way no one set of cores is in use for an extended period of time. This will extend the life of the circuits, and of the chip.

      Don't forget this is an IBM's R&D lab here. In 24-48 months we will hear that not only do they last an unlimited amount of time, they are twice as fast, and three times as small. Only thing between this new merical and us will be a huge licensing fee.

      Speed=Heat=Wear. The principals of Moores Law could also track the life expectancy of the faster technologies.
    • For those looking for this story, it is posted [] on the IBM Research website []. There are also news stories on the NY Times [] and C|Net [].
  • Nanotechnology (Score:1, Redundant)

    by 56ker ( 566853 )
    With the inherent limits imposed upon the current silicon chips, gallium arsenide being so far impractical & expensive it seems nanotechnology is the only way to go if we are going to get faster computers. The Japenese high-tech companies realised this ages ago and ploughed the profits made from silicon chips into nanotechnology research. Now it's finally showing some results.
    • Re:Nanotechnology (Score:4, Interesting)

      by OxideBoy ( 322403 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:08PM (#3552194) Homepage
      Which Japanese companies? Every time I hear about a nanotube breakthrough, it comes out of an American university or IBM. I know IBM basically just handed its storage hardware business to Hitachi, but that hardly qualifies.

      As a side note, IBM seems hell-bent on getting out of the hardware business, so if they manufacture carbon transistors themselves or license the technology to another firm remains to be seen.

  • Reality check. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theEdgeSMAK ( 467213 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:00PM (#3552115) Homepage
    We have seen many things in the last two years that outperform silicon based transistors. When it becomes cost effective and just plain realistic, thats when I wan't to hear about it. Is there anything cool that we might actually be using in 5 years?
    • Re:Reality check. (Score:3, Informative)

      by gimpboy ( 34912 )
      this is exactly what i was thinking. to the best of my knowlege, there is no way to mass produce nanotubes. the possibilities associated with nanotech are quite apparent. the organization which develops the methods to manufacture nanostructures on a large scale stands to make a boatload. i really wish the resources would focus on this problem and not the applications to be had after the manufacturing challenge is met.
      • Re:Reality check. (Score:4, Informative)

        by caesar-auf-nihil ( 513828 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:25PM (#3552336)
        Actually, carbon nanotubes can be mass produced - depending on what your scale of "mass production" is. If you only need 1 carbon nanotube per transistor, you can get a HUGE amount of nanotubes from 1 kg of material.
        Compaies like this one (, [Run by Richard Smalley, who co-discovered Fullerenes] are working to mass production (sub kiloton) of carbon nanotubes. Maybe not single-wall nanotubes, buth they're getting there.
      • There needs to be feasible uses of nanotubes before anybody is going to spend that much money on synthesizing them. When the time comes and there is a product that stands to make millions just around the corner, but it costs too much to make, then companies will jump on the ball and really get mass-production of nanotubes going. The apparent value of a new product isn't enough to go investing that many millions of dollars on manufacture.

        • my point is that there have been several applications for nanotech developed in research labs across the globe. i've personally attended seminars where people have demonstrated their use. a simple search for 'nanotube applications' on google will give you several applications. we are now at the point where research into mass production is what is needed and not more applications.

          many millions of dollars have already been invested by my government (us via nsf and doe), and probably by other organizations.
          • "Proving that carbon nanotubes outperform silicon transistors opens the door for more research related to the commercial viability of nanotubes," said Dr. Phaedon Avouris, manager of nanoscale science, IBM Research.

            I got this quote from the article from MSNBC. Obviously the view that carbon nanotubes are a commercially viable products isn't yet decided by some important people in the industry.
      • Carbon Nanotechnologies Incorporated is a company in Houston that is selling single walled nanotubes. I just found out that they even have an online store. For the low low price of $500/g, you too can own some nanotubes.

      • if there is a market for them, someone will figure out how to produce alot of them.
      • i really wish the resources would focus on this problem and not the applications to be had after the manufacturing challenge is met.

        There are a ton of interesting problems out there. No shortage at all. For the most part the ones that get money dumped on them tend to be the ones that solve problems people are having (more so if those people have money). So knowing more uses for nanotubes is just going to increase the chances that more people work on making them, and have access to better equipment, and may actually figure it out.

        So I'm all for figuring out what something is worth before we burn money on making it happen...aren't you?

    • We have seen many things in the last two years that outperform silicon based transistors.

      Brings to mind the IBM research about Gallium Arsenide chips from 15 or so years ago. This is nothing new.
    • Nothing that I ever read about ends up being used. I'm convinced it's just "look at what we did in the lab!" press releases that are saved up for whenever there's a slow news day at Reuters.

      Blah blah blah. Where's all that cool stuff I read about five years ago? Haven't seen a single bit of that technology used yet.

      Intel STILL hasn't made a chip that compares with the DEC Alpha, and the Alpha is essentially dead now.
      • Intel STILL hasn't made a chip that compares with the DEC Alpha, and the Alpha is essentially dead now.

        that's why it's called the Alpha ;-)
    • Sure, you're not likely to be using this stuff for a while. But don't you find this interesting anyway, both from the perspective of "what's gonna happen when conventional silicon technologies run out in a decade" (if that's indeed going to happen as it seems), and "hey, that's really cool, regardless of whether it's practical or not"?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hell, people I work with built a batch last year iirc.
    Is IBM actually doing something new in the way of making them practical for large scale or better integration?
    • It seems like that (a) every month someone has a new nanotube device, (b) it's always coming out of IBM, (c) no indication how they are going to economically integrate it with existing components. This is the wave of the future, I guess, but it will probably be after Si CMOS has run its course (5-15 years, depending on who you talk to). There's a lot that can be done with alloying Ge into Si, but I think right now most of that's aimed at the microwave communications market. If it is shown to be capable of making quantum computers, though, it probably will get more research money because it is very similar to existing technology.
  • Nanotech Owns (Score:2, Informative)

    by mattyohe ( 517995 )
    Since the article is about nanotechnology does it mean that it has to be a small read as well? Dont look for anything concerning this issue for the next 5 years.
    • Re:Nanotech Owns (Score:2, Insightful)

      by term8or ( 576787 )
      Got to say, the only really interesting thing I got from the article was that they can build nanotransistors that can take a fair amout of current. This has been a problem with some prior implementations
      I suspect this might just be PR; they haven't shown that they can produce nanotransistors at a reasonable cost, or hook them together in large enough arrays.
  • by Smallest ( 26153 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:03PM (#3552141)
    it just doesn't have quite the ring that "Silicon Valley" has, does it?

  • Carbon will be geek's best friend.
  • "The carbon the strongest fiber in nature and 10 times stronger than steel."

    Faster, more powerful... in the next round of tests perhaps we'll find out it reacts poorly when in the vicinity of kryptonite.
  • Can I be looking forward to buying some borg nano probes any time soon?
  • The question is, can it be mass produced?

    It doesn't matter if its faster or smaller or more efficient or God's gift to computerdom, if it can't deliver x Computers a week to CompUSA.

    • I havent seen anything that isnt mass producable. Look at current silicon processes. A P4 takes four weeks to get from one side of the fab to the other. No matter how silly the process is if (dirty) capitalist (swines) want to make it in mass they will and no engineer will be spared.
  • or it'll explode.

    (It makes a nice video though...)
  • by Dammital ( 220641 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:14PM (#3552247)
    ... can be found here [].
  • It's too bad (Score:4, Informative)

    by PhysicsGenius ( 565228 ) <> on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:15PM (#3552250)
    that our society has devolved to the point where science is conducted through the issuing of press-releases written by marketdroids. There are only about 10 accurate words in this entire article and I'm including "a", "an" and "the" in that count.

    First of all, nano is e-9, not e-12 like says. Second, the tubes don't carry electric charge on the interiors like a straw. It is carried on the surface--the interior is a vacuum. And fourth, the tubes are nano in length as well, which kind of makes making a ribbon cable moot.

    • by liquidsin ( 398151 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @03:09PM (#3552688) Homepage
      Your points labeled "first", "second" and "fourth" all seem valid, but the third one...

      • His points must be in binary... 2^0, 2^1, 2^2...
      • Re:It's too bad (Score:3, Informative)

        by ottffssent ( 18387 )
        Number three *is* poorly worded; I'll try to restate it better.

        Third, nanotubes aren't 10x as strong as steel. Steel is 10x as strong as steel - it just takes 10x as much of it. Nanotubes might be 10x as strong as an equivalent weight of steel, or an equivalent volume thereof, but that's not what the article says. Or maybe they meant an equivalent number of atoms, though if all you have is 1 atom, it's not steel...

        Why, oh why can't people write?
    • Actually, the charges are be carried on the inside - carbon nanotubes nanotubes, however, can be (theoretically) filled with metal atoms, thus creating a one-molecule-wide insulated wire, in which the electrons travel through the inside.
  • don't get along too well.

    So remember not to use a flash when taking photos of your circuitboards :)

  • >"The small (size) is of course very important, but it is a little bit overhyped.
    >It is really the performance we are after," said Phaedon Avouris,
    >manager of nanoscience and nanotechnology for IBM Research.
    • Oops, I was a bit too eager to hit the "submit" button. I was supposed to add that:
      Well said by a manager of nanoscience and nanotechnology: "little bit overhyped" - I quess he's just not a marketdroid then, it's nice to see nerd-in-control. :)
  • by cybrpnk2 ( 579066 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:20PM (#3552290) Homepage
    Not to take anything away from IBM, but not only have individual nanotube transistors already been done, but they're already being used to produce inttegrated circuits of logic gates in Europe at Delft University of Technology []. A paper about their nanotube logic circuitry is here []...
  • IBM keeps developing "fast stuff" that, by the way, has to be refrigierated with liquid helium. Not exactly common at my local 7-11 (will a cold six-pack work?).

    And what substrate will they use? How will they build it en masse? These are important questions that this article "failed" to mention [sigh].
  • It seems really strange that I've read this article about 10 times on different sites today, and not once have I seen a frequency listed. The article mentions that it is faster than any silicon transistor, but how much faster exactly?
  • by brejc8 ( 223089 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:25PM (#3552328) Homepage Journal
    Ok thats all fine and dandy to say we can now have transistors which will carry on moores law for another x years but there are still physical problems we cannot get roud without rethinking the whole VLSI consept.
    In future technology it will take several clock cycles to get a signal at a speed of light from one side of the chip to the other. Its impossible to breat that rule.
    Imagine distributing a clock where the destination is 50 cycles ahead and each clock path has to be accurate to within a 10th of a cycle.
    Or if one transistor has one atom of impurity it will make a pipeline stage three times slower and basicly make the chip unworkable.
    The material to make these circuits out of isnt the biggest problem. Even before silicon runs out of steam we will hit a great big technology wall which requires new ways of thinking.
    I beleve asynchronous logic is the answear but thats just me.
  • IBM articles... (Score:5, Informative)

    by edgrale ( 216858 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:27PM (#3552352)
    can be found here [] and the full press release here []
  • SI units? (Score:5, Funny)

    by brejc8 ( 223089 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:30PM (#3552374) Homepage Journal
    100,000 thinner than a human hair? Can anyone tell me what that is in nm/pm ?
    Currently we are working on a 1,000,000th the size of a cow process to make our chips.
  • by caesar-auf-nihil ( 513828 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:35PM (#3552435)
    Since the IBM experiments (and others done elsewhere) almost always use single wall carbon nanotubes, there are a few issues of practical nature I wonder about with this technology.

    One is that single wall nanotubes are oxygen sensitive. Specifically, contact with O2 will cause single site defects in the nanotube structure, thus causing the whole nanotube to lose its electronic properties. It makes me wonder about how they will package these "molecular transistors" such that O2 can't get to it, but the encapsulation of the nanotube doesn't cause it to short out.

    Another is that when these things heat up, they do ignite. As we've seen with the light-based ignition shown in Science and here on slashdot, these materials do burn. The above mentioned oxygen reaction sometimes causes the semi-conducting nanotubes to become insulators, thus they heat up, ignite, and disintegrate. So I'm wondering if frying one's nanotube-based chip would be more than just a figurative term if this happened.

    Finally, there is the fabrication issue. I know that in the near future, one can make kilotons of nanotubes, and probably even kilograms of single wall nanotubes today (maybe 2kg a year, but you don't need that much if you only need 1 nanotube), but how are you going to fabricate them into architechures onto chips with existing chip fabrication technology?

    Maybe IBM has all this worked out. I do have to remember that what they've published today is what they already have covered in patents and what they've been working on already for several months to one year. They don't publish unless they've got more going on AND if they already have the technology protected.

  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:42PM (#3552484) Homepage Journal
    From the IBM article:

    IBM announced it has created the highest performing nanotubes transistors to date and has proven that carbon nanotubes -- tube-shaped molecules made of carbon atoms that are 50,000 times thinner than a human hair -- can outperform the leading silicon transistor prototypes available today.

    From the MSNBC article:

    ARMONK, NEW YORK-BASED IBM said it used a carbon nanotube -- a tiny cylindrical structure made up of carbon atoms that is about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair

    So which is it - 100,000 or 50,000 times smaller than a human hair? It seems that there is quite a bit of hype on the MSNBC side of things. Doesn't it bother anyone that MSNBC distorted the truth?

  • In addition to looking at using the carbon nanotube, which is the strongest fiber in nature and 10 times stronger than steel, scientists are also studying the possibility of quantum computing based on atoms.

    Oh? Silicon computing isn't based on atoms?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It seems that one of the main concerns facing chips today is over heating. How does this new technolgy hold up in this respect?
  • do they have pictures of this in action?

  • by wysoft ( 301924 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @02:59PM (#3552609) Homepage
    Watch IBM patent this tech and send it careening towards another MCA-type failure....

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @03:23PM (#3552791) Homepage
    Clicking on the link for the MSNBC article may result in an attempt to download "ADSAAdClient31.dll". This is apparently some kind of ad delivery system / spyware. []

    Do not click on that link with automatic downloading of DLLs or Active-X controls enabled.

    I was surprised to see hostile code from a supposedly respectable news organization. There's no contractual relationship or EULA which could possibly justify this. In California, this is a criminal offense. [] California law is tougher on computer viruses and related hostile code than other states.

    Here's the relevant Calfornia law:

    "502. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this section to expand the degree of protection afforded to individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies from tampering, interference, damage, and unauthorized access to lawfully created computer data and computer systems." ...

    • (4) Knowingly accesses and without permission adds, alters, damages, deletes, or destroys any data, computer software, or computer programs which reside or exist internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network.
    • (5) Knowingly and without permission disrupts or causes the disruption of computer services or denies or causes the denial of computer services to an authorized user of a computer, computer system, or computer network.
    • (6) Knowingly and without permission provides or assists in providing a means of accessing a computer, computer system, or computer network in violation of this section.
    • (7) Knowingly and without permission accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network.
    • (8) Knowingly introduces any computer contaminant into any computer, computer system, or computer network.
    That seems to cover it.

    I have filed a complaint with the Office of the California Attorney General in this matter.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Monday May 20, 2002 @03:25PM (#3552805)
    The highest end RAM chips have 100-500 million gates on them and sell for a few dollars. No other technology approaches this cost effectiveness.
  • CNET article (Score:3, Informative)

    by scubacuda ( 411898 ) <> on Monday May 20, 2002 @04:32PM (#3553350)
    CNET version [] of the same article.
  • An interesting quote from the article...

    The small (size) is of course very important, but it is a little bit overhyped. It is really the performance we are after," said Phaedon Avouris, manager of nanoscience and nanotechnology for IBM Research.

    Who says size doesn't matter? As long as the electrons are satisfied!

  • At 10 times stronger than steel, and with obsolescence for your PC hardware heading your way in about 3 years, just how hard of a hit is this new technology going to have on landfills?

    Trash compactors breaking?


  • Really, is it so far fetched? How far off until a chip is capable of processing and sorting information quickly enough to accomodate some real brute-force AI?

    Then again, I'm probably over-simplifying the issueby thinking it's raw speed that a true thinking machine needs.
  • It's great - but in today's microprocessors wires are the limiting factor, not the speed of the gates.

    The Raven

  • can be found here []

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.