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Engineers Build Carbon-Nanotube Computer

A team of Stanford engineers has built a basic computer using carbon nanotubes, a semiconductor material that has the potential to launch a new generation of electronic devices that run faster, while using less energy, than those made from silicon chips. Experts say the Stanford achievement will galvanize efforts to find successors to silicon chips, which could soon encounter physical limits that might prevent them from delivering smaller, faster, cheaper electronic devices.

The team used a imperfection-immune design to assemble 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.

Their 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.

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Also: Learn about a Quasi-Linear Circuit.