Researchers build first computer using carbon nanotubes
A team of engineers at Stanford University, CA, USA, has successfully built a basic computer using carbon nanotubes (CNT) instead of silicon.
According to the experts this achievement will galvanise efforts to find successors to silicon chips, which could soon encounter physical limits that might prevent them from delivering smaller, faster and cheaper electronic devices.
"People have been talking about a new era of carbon nanotube electronics moving beyond silicon," says Prof Subhasish Mitra, an electrical engineer and computer scientist and one of the leaders of the project. "But there have been few demonstrations of complete digital systems using this exciting technology. Here is the proof."
The Stanford team assembled a basic computer with 178 transistors, a limit imposed by the fact that they used the university's chip-making facilities rather than an industrial fabrication process. The CNT computer performed tasks such as counting and number sorting. It runs a basic operating system that allows it to swap between these processes. In a demonstration of its potential, the researchers also showed that the CNT computer could run MIPS, a commercial instruction set developed in the early 1980s by then Stanford engineering professor and now university President John Hennessy.