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Carbon Nanotube Transistors Just May Change How Microprocessors Are Made

Carbon nanotube transistors appear to be the future of computers. Scientists have found a way to harness the power of these transistors, surpassing the performance of silicon transistors.

Engineers have been trying for years to maximize carbon nanotubes and turn them into high-performing microprocessors that consume less energy. The idea is to produce electronics that are capable of faster wireless communication, longer battery life, and high-speed processing for devices, Tech Times reports.

However, advances in carbon nanotubes had eventually been exceeded by more efficient transistors using silicon and gallium arsenide — materials used in computer chips that power electronics.

Now, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found a way to engineer carbon nanotubes so that they perform much better than silicon ones, potentially changing how microprocessors will be created.

Carbon nanotubes have long been considered ideal materials for transistors because the tubes’ incredibly small size lets them change a current sign traveling across it quickly, meaning they should be at least five times faster than silicon transistors.

The problem was in isolating pure carbon nanotubes, as impurities in the material interrupt its semiconducting properties — much like shorting an electronic device.

Michael Arnold, a lead researcher on the study and a professor at the university, says,

We’ve identified specific conditions in which you can get rid of nearly all metallic nanotubes, where we have less than 0.01 percent metallic nanotubes.

Arnold and his team compared the carbon nanotube transistor they were able to make against a silicon transistor of the same size, geometry and leakage current, and found that the carbon one produced a current 1.9 times higher than the silicon transistor.

Arnold notes that their success has been something that nanotechnology has aimed for these past two decades. This milestone is significant in that it can change high-speed communications and other electronic systems, he adds.

Carbon nanotube transistors could soon replace silicon transistors and offer bigger gains that the computer and technology industry can certainly use.

Arnold’s team is now working on adapting the carbon nanotube transistor to match the geometry present in silicon transistors. The patent for the new transistors has been submitted through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

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