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Intel Experimenting With Nanotubes 85

illeism writes "C|Net is reporting on Intel's experimentation with nanotubes in processors. From the article: 'The chip giant has managed to create prototype interconnects — microscopic metallic wires inside of chips that link transistors ... Carbon nanotubes ... conduct electricity far better than metals. In fact, nanotubes exhibit what's called ballistic conductivity, which means that electrons are not scattered or impeded by obstacles.'"
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Intel Experimenting With Nanotubes

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  • by vought ( 160908 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @01:26AM (#16802878)
    Tubes are ascendant!

    Truly, Ted is a technology genius. It's only a matter of time before these "nano tubes" are implemented to speed delivery of Internet content.
  • Nanotubes? (Score:4, Funny)

    by JFMulder ( 59706 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @01:40AM (#16802936)
    You mean like really really small Internets?
  • Quantum Dots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by googlebear ( 625615 ) < minus painter> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @01:40AM (#16802940) Homepage
    Hey this is all really interesting stuff ...I think getting Intel behind some of the manufacturing technicalities is a major boon to the industry. Nanotubes, if intel's research confirms this, should prove to be useful in many different applications from mass power distribution to an elevator to the heavens.. who knows .. stay tunes.. also as an interesting side note.. VLSI will hit a rock bottom soon... I did a presentation in my Nanotechnology class last Spring on Quantum Dot Cellular Automata . This uses the electromagnetic repulsion of electons to propegate signals across molecules that are arranged in such a way to form logic gates.. [] -Ian ian at
    • It would be a shame if they threw away all of VLSI, as it's not just a digital world -- all of our nice wireless devices require some kind of analog layout, since most of modern communications are based around the concept of wave (not particle) models. QCA definitely sounds interesting, but it's hardly the first attempt at reversible computing. As for Intel: the company is simply benefiting from those marvelous fabs and all of its consortium connections. I suspect that VLSI is going to be with us for a bit
      • by marnues ( 906739 )
        Even if QCA took over, VLSI would be necessary. The clocking model requires an electromagnetic field, which is currently created with VLSI technologies.
        • I'm a bit confused on this point (only tangentially related): I think that it is the Coulomb force which determines the arrangement of the dots, so are we actually talking about electromagnetic fields, or merely electrostatic/magnetostatic fields? This matters as the former implies a considerable delay, but a generality in terms of the computational model, whereas the latter implies negligible delay. VLSI was founded on the latter for simplicity, but naturally has had to work in the former for a while now (
    • Could you be referreing to quantum dots produced by the company QDot now owned by Invitrogen???
  • 3D Microprocessors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @01:44AM (#16802954) Homepage Journal
    This sounds like it could be of particular use in 3D microprocessor technology. With the number of cores per die ramping up at incredible rates, we're starting to bump into latency issues again. I know that several memory manufacturers (who experinece similar die-space problems) have already switched to layered components to help relieve the issue and keep their dies smaller. But if we can weave nanotubes, we could do a lot more than just stack transistors three or four levels deep. Assuming that a inexpensive manufacturing process were developed, the chip could actually be fashioned in the shape of a cube. The result would make the chip orders of magnitude more dense than the CPUs of today!

    Besides, it would look like a Borg cube under a microscope. How cool is that?!? :P
    • Power is Heat (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheStonepedo ( 885845 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @01:52AM (#16802988) Homepage Journal
      If you get something running topped-out it may produce some waste heat. Thin chips with only a few layers can rely on a large, flat piece of some kind of substrate attached to a big heat sink and fan. If you make a cube-shaped processor, the innermost parts' heat will have to be dissipated through many other layers of working parts, creating a temperature gradient within the processor. If the innermost parts must be kept below a certain temperature, the outermost must be kept well below that temperature to allow for thermal conduction and the whole thing will have to run very cool relative to today's chips.
      • Re:Power is Heat (Score:5, Informative)

        by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @02:13AM (#16803076) Homepage Journal
        You are perfectly correct. This is currently one of the challenges facing 3D chip design. That said, there are several properties claimed by the article that would make nanotubes more suitable. First and foremost is that the nanotubes supposedly provide less resistance. Heat != Power per se, but rather the amount of resistance to the power applied. Less resistance == less heat. In addition, the amount of heat generated by resistance is also a function of distance. So the shorter distances provided by 3D nanotubing would provide less heat and overall power usage.

        I'm also tempted to suggest that the empty space between tubings could be flooded with some sort of coolant to eliminate the temperature gradient; but I have my doubts about the feasibility of that. At such a small level, you'd have a lot of difficulty trying to fit atoms into that space. In addition, you'd probably do more to damage the circuitry than heat removal. Still, that doesn't place micro-heatpumps woven into the circuits entirely out of the question. Just mostly. ;)

        In any case, we're already using WAY too much power to keep up these ridiculous clock speeds. Forcing chip-makers to scale the power usage back a bit wouldn't be all that bad of a thing. Especially if they're getting replacement speed increases from the smaller interconnects and lower resistance of the nanotubes.
        • I'm not sure what is used in processors currently, but having the links as nanotubes would help the heat transfer within the material also. Nanotubes have a thermal conductivity of around 2000-3000 W/m/K at normal CPU operating temperatures. This is a huge increase when you compare it to the 149 W/m/K for silicon and 318 W/m/K for gold at room temperature.

          So the increase in thermal conductivity by just having a proportion of the CPU made from nanotubes could possibly be enough to make up for the shape cha

        • Re:Power is Heat (Score:4, Interesting)

          by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @04:14AM (#16803496) Homepage
          Actually I remember an article here a while back about nanotubes being used to desalinize water. Apparently the perfectly smooth tubes aid the flow of water and defy the usual "size of pipe is proportional to water pressure" equations. What you could actually do in a 3D chip is leave extra nanotubes built in that simply flow in straight lines through the gaps in the chip where no conductive tubes are located, then pumping fluids through it wouldn't cause problems at all.

          The excellent heat-transfer of nanotubes, plus the efficient water flow through them would make cooling them much better than current chips.
      • one of the ways around this problem is through building in heat pipes into the silicon. 3-D chips will have metal vias between the chip layers for the transfer of data, but additionally they will include metal vias at strategic points to handle heat transfer. Additionally it is unlikely 3-D chips will get beyond a couple of layers anytime soon, the problem is just that it's so expensive to produce mask sets for those chips. Assuming each chip layer has the same number of metal layers, having a mask set
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rogtioko ( 1024857 )
      Another problem with stacked processors, besides heat, is that to really take advantage of the proximity the interface would have to be changed to one that integrates individual units of each processor more directly. This is far from conventional in terms of normal multicore-chip manufacture and would suffer from non-mainstream extra costs. Still, it should be designed and manufactured: the costs would go down when demand follows.
      I've read that, like 3d microprocessors, m
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Iron Condor ( 964856 )

      number of cores per die ramping up at incredible rates,

      Yeah, we're already up to ... uh ... four...

    • Don't forget the blinking lights.

      Light still is faster than electrons.

      Call me when I get Orac for my Desktop.
  • What??? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rellik66 ( 596729 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @01:46AM (#16802958)
    No Nanotrucks?
  • I fail to see what the fuss is about. A quick search of Web of Knowledge (for those of you with access to online periodicals) gives several abstracts where connections were formed with carbon nanotubes and the electronic properties were studied. To throw around buzzwords, how do you think researchers already knew about this "ballistic conductivity" before Intel made these interconnects? Unless the Intel results indicate how to fabricate these interconnects in bulk, there's absolutely nothing worth talkin
    • Well, if I recall correctly, it means that iNTEL is hot on IBM's heels, or maybe a year behind or so in nanotubes.

      Maybe my memory is bad, though.
  • I'll get mod'd down for this, but I don't care, it has to be said.

    Is it just me or are these tubes jokes just getting old and stale? They were funny for the first few months, but now they're just predictable.

    Stop mod'ing them as funny, they aren't anymore. There's very little humor value in a 3 month old joke, that gets told -invariably- everyday, on at least one story. Ted Stevens is a tool. His explanation was stupid, but it wasn't that least not this long after he'd made it.
    • There's very little humor value in a 3 month old joke, that gets told -invariably- everyday, on at least one story.

      You must be new here!

      (Notice: The joke itself illustrates the funnyness of old jokes; the funniness being completely invalidated by this note. Great Success!)
    • by bersl2 ( 689221 )
      Would you consider it hypocrisy that your own sig is a minor modification on an old and stale joke? Or is there something special about the average person's ignorance displayed in the "10 kinds of people" joke over the politician's ignorance in the "tubes" gag that I don't know about?

      Then again, it is in your sig, and anything goes in sigs.
    • "Ted Stevens is a tool."

      Tool...or prescient genius? You won't be calling him a tool when the internets really are comprised of tubes, sir!
    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )
      Is it just me or are these tubes jokes just getting old and stale?

      Yes, they are, but the important thing is that they are doing their job: crowding out the last of the "overlords" jokes. (and I, for one, look forward to a glorious overlords-free Slashdot)

  • by d_jedi ( 773213 )
    A processor is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of (nano)tubes! And if you don't understand that these tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your program in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by any process that puts into that tube enormous amounts of instructions, enormous amounts of instructions.
  • Can we go back to spaghetti code? The Noodly One will be pleased!
  • Now if we can only mass produce a 21st century way to generate the steam.
  • At the Wired Nextfest show back in September, IBM showcased some of their nano tech and carbon nano tubes were also on display. They're also looking into ways of producing these things in mass quantities and I think that they're a little ahead of intel in the research aspect right now. IBM can actually create tubes in different shapes and that's a step up on the competition.

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.