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Nanowires Four Times Faster Than Silicon 114

evileyetmc writes "Advances in nanowires have shown that they may be the future in cheap, high-performance electronics. Researchers at Harvard have shown that nanowire transistors are are least four times faster than existing silicon ones. These nanowires show promise in being able to be embedded in plastics, and could lead to devices such as flexible displays that process information in the screen itself."
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Nanowires Four Times Faster Than Silicon

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @03:08PM (#15571418)
    Why do breast implants have to be faster?
  • by eaglebtc ( 303754 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @03:12PM (#15571451)
    The article says that we won't see this technology in computers and PDAs for a while because the relatively high cost of implementing mass production of nanowires cannot be justified by a mere 4x increase in speed. Its application will be limited to scientific research for now.

    Still, there is hope for implanted computers.
    • As time goes by, supply and demand will dictate the price of this new technology. Maybe ine 20 years from now it will be impossible to buy a silicon chip. At least, we can hope so. Nanotechnology has great potential to open the doors to inventions we cannot even begin to dream about. I suspect that over a very short time, these nanowire transistors will become even faster.

      Still, there is hope for implanted computers.

      If you mean computers implanted directly into my head... no thanks! Too creepy fo

      • As time goes by, supply and demand will dictate the price of this new technology.

        Obviously true, but the supply curve is largely determined by production costs. So if production costs remain high, the price will not fall.

        That said, the history of technology is encouraging in the sense that production costs often fall - a lot.

        • So if production costs remain high, the price will not fall.

          If the **AA, Oil Companies, or Microsoft are any indication, the price will not fall even if production costs do. I'm sure the first company to do this will have plenty of money and political palm greasing to be sure they are the only ones allowed to use it. For national security reasons of course, who knows what evil terrorists might do!

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The relatively high cost of implementing mass production of nanowires cannot be justified by a mere 4x increase in speed

      So I guess we will see nano production of these wires then?
  • Sorry, I didn't read either articles, but the headlines seemed compatible. http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/ptech/06/20/ibm.chip. reut/index.html [cnn.com]
  • Electronic Paper (Score:5, Interesting)

    by greenpenguin ( 859340 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @03:23PM (#15571540)
    Integrated with things like electronic paper, this would be brilliant - it would eliminate the need for a bulky separate processing unit. Imagine being able to hold a piece of paper that acts as a (very) basic computer...
    • Ah, yes- solve the age-old problem of newspaper ink getting all over you hands- now that newspapers are virtually obsolete.

      One question though- say you wanted to do a flipbook-style animation using nanowire-paper. Would you just need the one piece?

      Is there a danger of accidentally opening up some 5th dimension by flipping through a book of nanowire-papers, each of which displayed an animated 3d image?
      • Re:Electronic Paper (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy@NospAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @05:02PM (#15572267) Journal
        Pssh. Newspapers aren't obsolete. That's like saying "In depth news in handy, portable, written format" is obsolete.

        The media(e.g physical paper) may die, but the content will move on to the next sexy portable format that adequately fills all the niches that dumb paper (as opposed to smart paper) fills today. Despite what the average /.er maintains, the vast bulk of the population doesn't take their laptop with them into the crapper.

        Trust me on this...If newspapers could ditch the whole "Printing and Delivery" thing, they'd do it in a heartbeat. That stuff causes an amount of heartbreak you can only faintly imagine, working outside of the industry. Your data center goes down? Relocate it to your backup site an hour away...then print 100 metric tons of paper, and move it back in time to distribute it to people's lawns before 5am. It's an all-night job on a normal day. But with reliable portable e-delivery? They'd be done at midnight. They could lay off 75% of their staff, and concentrate on a better product.
        • "They could lay off 75% of their staff, and concentrate on a better product."

          got to fix that

          "They could lay off 75% of their staff, and" buy more yachts.

        • the vast bulk of the population doesn't take their laptop with them into the crapper.
          Believe me, when I have some vast bulk, I need a good selection of things to read (aka laptop & wifi).
        • some of us rely on taking that newspaper to the crapper for an entirely different reason.
        • "They could lay off 75% of their staff, and concentrate on a better product."

          Sorry, I think you mean: They could lay off 75% of their staff, and pass the savings onto the executives.

          Seriously though, the quality of newspapers would improve. Not because a newspaper could move funds to improve quality but because suddenly they would be competing with 20 other e-papers. Competition drives quality and price more then supply side factors.
        • No- I meant exactly what I said: Newspapers (i.e. dissemination of information via broadsheet and ink) are obsolete. I was specifically referring to the medium (and the problem of ink coming off of the pages), and not to the concept of distributing in-depth news in a convenient, portable, written format. The latter is still a good idea, and coincidentally, it's accomplished much more effectively with a Treo or equivalent gadget, than with a bulky stack of paper full of full-page ads and yesterday's news. Su
          • No- I meant exactly what I said: Newspapers (i.e. dissemination of information via broadsheet and ink) are obsolete.

            Newspaper: 50p
            Electronic device: £250

            Newspapers will be around for a long while yet. And that price isn't even including batteries, Internet connection, subscription to online services.

            Sure the classic "newspaper" is still in use, but so are fountain pens and pocket watches. What can I say? Some people like anachronisms, and some habits are hard to break.

            Or maybe, old devices are merely

    • Yeah another device to distract people from driving.
    • it would also be great for drm - copyright control right up to the display.
    • that reminds me of a patent i read about, think it was microsoft that holds it.

      basicly it was a user interface based on a folded sheet of paper ;)

      want to read a e-book? fold it so that you can flip it open and closed, by holding one side still and flipping the other, you would page back and forth in the book.

      interesting concept, and with nanowire-based cpu and storage, no need for much bulk outside of the energy storage unit...
  • Nano-future (Score:5, Informative)

    by UberMench ( 906076 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @03:29PM (#15571582) Homepage
    I have talked with engineers at Tokyo University about this technology, and they are very confident that nanotube transistors are the future of electronics, not only because of speed, but also because they have fewer heat dissipation problems. And the prospect of having technology for electronic displays that can be rolled up like paper for easy transport just r0x0rz!!!
    • Who rolls up paper besides artists? Do you know if it can be folded?
    • they're also much smaller! So you can pack more of them into a smaller space with less crosstalk.
    • they said that in six years this tech should be ready and 4 times faster than current sillycone. Of course by that time the sillycone will be 4 times faster than these are.

    • I don't think you have done enough homework before posting here

      (1) Nanowires are not made the same way as conventional transistors. You have to understand that part carefully because it also illustrates why, despite more than 15 yrs old, there are no carbon nanotube electronics. You have to put them precisely where one wants. A random spaghetti on a wafer is not useful. Thus methods that employ CVD process produce nanowires in all directions. There are some ideas to make them directional, but none of them

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Complicated lithography" is why we can stuff so many (millions) transistors on a chip. LSI would be impossible without it or a similar process. The idea of something that you have to sort and handle on an individual basis makes these transistors a non-starter for most applications. On the other hand, something like this could be used for microwave amplifiers. They could also be used the same way we now use ECL; as front-end flip-flops which convert signals to lower clock rates that can be dealt with by
  • 'cause that'd be four times faster than silicon... [slashdot.org]
    and no, I most certainly did not RTFA; this is Slashdot/em.
  • More Info (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gridpoet ( 634171 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @03:34PM (#15571616)
    There is a great in-depth article here

    http://uw.physics.wisc.edu/~himpsel/wires.html [wisc.edu] ... very fascinating stuff the potential for small scale electronics is just staggering.

    i wonder how long before they can mesh nanowires directly to nerve cells... plug me in!
  • "...flexible displays that process information in the screen itself."

    Now the signal doesn't just get decrypted in the monitor, it doesn't even get decrypted and displayed until it reaches the display surface itself. Still doesn't close the analog hole, though...

    • Still doesn't close the analog hole, though...

      Wait til they can implant nanowire processors right into your eyeballs. Then they can decrypt the video when it reaches your retina. That'll close that nasty analog hole.
      • It would give a whole new meaning to Eyes Only levels of secrecy. Nanowire paper which is displaying encrypted data that can only be decrypted by someone with the correct processors in their eyeballs.
      • I realize that the post was at least partially a joke, but I think it would be more likely that the video stream would be directly fed to the optic nerve as a replacement signal rather than processed via supplemental optical sensors implanted in the eyes. This eliminates the added overhead involved in decrypting an optical signal of varying size (depending upon distance from the source) and orientation (since our muscles are constantly adjusting while a signal is being sent from the brain not to mention th
    • Still doesn't close the analog hole, though...

      I hear the MPAA is working on Sharp Stick(tm) technology for that.

  • I do see a lot of potential for this technology for embedded systems use--particulary 'smart maps'--if we can embed display control electronics physically closer to the displays (lighter, thinner, etc). Once costs are researched down, some really neat shit is in the offing (OLED + nanowidth signal processors, anyone?).
  • by Keyslapper ( 852034 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @04:05PM (#15571845)
    I'm not an EE, so I might be wrong about some of this, but this is how I understand things - please corroborate or correct as appropriate.

    If the "hardware" is actually 4x faster than silicon, then that's a 4x increase for similarly scaled systems, right? The thing is that this technology can generate huge improvements in one of the primary focal points in chip design (aside from materials) over the last couple decades: smaller scale. There are several advantages to this: speed, heat, and power consumption, to name the top 3.

    If you only have to send a signal 1/10th the distance to get it processed, that's a 10x increase in the throughput. If the processing also takes place in an area 1/10th the size, that's a full 10x increase in speed for the same construction material. (I pulled that 1/10th out of the air for ease of use, I realize nanowires could potentially construct circuits much smaller than this scale compared to current silicon architecture.)

    Now, make that material 4x faster on top of the scaling improvements, and you have, not a 4x improvement, but a 40x improvement, right? Is there some glaring technical detail I'm missing?
    • by Spellunk ( 777915 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @04:46PM (#15572139)
      Your first paragraph seems right on, but the second doesn't seem to make sense. The length of the traces have little to do with speed, it is the actual switching speed of the transistor from off to on that causes the delay. Nano wires and transistors may switch faster, but the additional 10x improvement may come from heat/density savings, not the signal path length.
  • by cycletronic ( 918616 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @04:08PM (#15571867)
    ... since whenever I get frustrated with buggy code I'll just crumple up the monitor and throw it away.
  • Sorting problem. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swagr ( 244747 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @04:11PM (#15571895) Homepage
    I have a freind who does nanotube research.
    The problem, as I understand, is sorting.
    Not all nanotubes are conductive, and they can't be manufactured selectiveley.
    But otherwise they behave similarly.

    It's like me giving you a pile of billions of wires and saying: "Here, some of these conduct, and others don't. Now start sorting."
    • Re:Sorting problem. (Score:5, Informative)

      by jnaujok ( 804613 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @05:24PM (#15572417) Homepage Journal
      The FA is about nanowires not nanotubes. They specifically point out the large difference between the two and say that nanowires can be made reliably and require no sorting. They also state that they are easy to make at room temperature.

      What I find intriguing is that the article mentions how conducive nanowire technology is to three dimensional circuit construction with a per-layer size of 100nm. That means I can build 1100 layers into a 0.11 mm thick sandwich. How about 100 Athlon 64 CPUs intermixed with 1000 1GB memory arrays? With how reliable they are claiming this technology is, that would represent a 100 core CPU, with 1 Terabyte of memory mixed in. Seems like this is clearly the future of the CPU market. Especially if the heat disappation is as good as they claim.

      How do you like my new Athlon 64 X100 with 1TB of memory running at 16 GHz?
    • I read an earlier article about nanowire transistors [physorg.com].

      While the nanowire transistors Lieber and his colleagues demonstrated are comparable to but slightly worse in performance to the best ones made with carbon nanotubes, theirs can be made with reproducible electronic characteristics "unlike carbon nanotube FETs, and this is absolutely essential for moving beyond single nanowire or nanotube devices," he said.

    • Well, then twist those wires together and you have a conducting cable.
  • by snoggeramus ( 945056 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @06:06PM (#15572656)
    4x faster? At least it will be out just in time for Vista.
  • Nano-stuff (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chullymonster ( 695441 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @06:28PM (#15572773)
    People are throwing money at nano-this and nano-that because it has great PR, but nothing as yet has come remotely close to being a credible alternative to silicon CMOS for ULSI devices. Consider where silicon CMOS is at the moment - we can put a billion transistors all together on the same logic chip for tens of dollars. A bit of DRAM costs less than a billionth of a dollar. This is what we can do now - think how much further it will have gone in 15 years, when the new nano-stuff is supposed to be competing. Any new technology will have to be considerably better than what is already available for anyone to invest in it, and looking at the current state of things it's just not going to happen. They are banking on miracle breakthroughs. There is also a credibility issue with manufacture and interconnect. It's one thing to make one super-fast nanotube transistor and say "ooh, look how good it is!" But it's quite another to be able to put a trillion of them on the same chip, all wired together, for cheaper than CMOS. That is what they are going to have to do to compete with where silicon will be in 15-20 years. To be fair, the guy in the article seems well aware of this.
    • Re:Nano-stuff (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The problem is that the industry sees itself as not too much farther along in 15-20 years unless someone does something fundamentally different - like these nanowires. There has been a lot of talk and real concern over the possibility that moore's law has met murphy's law.
  • Do we actually want flexible computers?
    Do we really want to roll up our processors like a newspaper?

    Every other new future technology seems to include the phrase "and then you can roll it up just like paper!"

    But there's a whole industry out there selling things to PREVENT paper from rolling up and being flexible!
    We store paper so it doesn't roll up or bend, we print it in such a way to prevent rolling or curling and now I'm supposed to believe in the future we're magically going to WANT paper-thin electroni
    • See, this is where your old computer comes in. You just put it on the papers you don't want to blow away--and they don't!

      On a more serious note, the reason for having flexibility is mostly for ease of use. You can't fold up many displays now--how would you like to put one in your back pocket, forget about it, then sit down--crunch!
      With flexibility also comes easier storage. Have you ever tried storing something large and bulky? It's a pain, right? Say an old dresser. What would you give to be able to fo
  • They're shorter. If you are talking about speeds measured at this kind of scale, the length of travel is a significant part of that speed gain. If you make the little electrons run further, they take longer to get here. The little bastards fairly sprint through the nanowires though.
  • It's going to take years for these sorts of things to be made manufacturable. Meanwhile, if you give things another 4 years or so, conventional transistors made from doped silicon will be more than 4x as fast at about 1/100th the cost. While Moore's law is slowing down, it's not dead yet! We still have plenty of improvement to be had and the costs per transistor will continue to drop over time.

    Nanotechnology is unlikely to make any significant impact in the next 10 years. We may make significant advanc

  • Minority Report here we come!
    I for one welcome our new flexible screen wielding, crime fighting, precognative overlords.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.