Carbon nanotubes could be the future of transistor technology

Though chip transistors have traditionally been made with silicon, a team from USC has developed carbon nanotubes that could replace silicon and allow for faster transistors.

Chongwu Zhou, a professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, leads a team at USC that clocked the carbon nanotubes at 25GHz, a dramatic speed advantage over the second-fastest nanotube transistor (a design from French Institut d’Électronique de Microélectronique et de Nanotechnologie, which peaks at 15GHz).

In a release, team member Yuchi Che claims, “It is a significant step toward the practical application of carbon nanotube RF transistor as a promising candidate for next generation electronics.”

Additionally, the carbon nanotubes from USC draw far less power than their silicon counterparts, which makes them all the more attractive. Transistors exist in almost every electronic device, from cell phones to computers to the guts of your car or television, so their speed and efficiency is no trivial matter.

Carbon nanotubes haven’t yet surpassed silicon in actual speed, but experts believe that, with further development, they’ll potentially double silicon transfer rates. Silicon transistors top out at around 500GHz, but researchers think carbon nanotube transistors could reach upwards of 1000GHz. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why the future of transistor technology will likely be spearheaded by incremental advancements like these.

[Photo: Geoff Hucthison/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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