NPR Learns the "Nano Radio" is not about the Radio

In an interview on National Public Radio, Professor John Rogers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign does a yeoman''s job in trying to get his interviewer away from the idea that his work with nanotubes is about the ''nano radio'' that made headlines at the beginning of the year and instead gently nudges him to the idea that the nanotube-based transistor used for the creation of the so-called ''nano radio'' is in fact a demonstration of the potential of CNTs in electronics.

Rogers manages to hit the interviewer's ''Jargon Alert'' when he indicates one of the most attractive qualities of CNTs in electronics are their ''charged-carrier mobility'' (which is explained to the interviewer as: How fast they can switch on and off).

Indeed, it has long been understood that CNTs outperform silicon by a factor of 10 in this area.

But what has also long been the problem is growing the nanotubes into some kind of ordered array rather than a ''rat''s nest''. According to Rogers, his team has managed to grow the tubes in a configuration in a way that they can be handed off to engineers. In other words, moved it into the hands of people who can make a commercial product.

Rogers'' team discovered somewhat serendipitously that by growing the CNTs on a quartz substrate they aligned themselves. Rogers concedes in the interview that more work has to be done. In the next two years, they will be trying to increase the density of the tubes on the substrate and decrease the level of electronic heterogeneity of the tubes.

But what is particularly fascinating about the interview is Rogers laying out a roadmap for nanotube applications in electronics.

According to Rogers, because RF analog device depend so highly on high switching speeds that the high intrinsic mobility of the CNTs can have a dramatic impact. Also, RF analog electronics for communication devices don''t involve extremely high levels of integration as measured by the number of devices per circuit. You can make a commercially competitive circuit that has 100 transistors, whereas with digital logic you need 100 million transistors to make something that is competitive.

So, there''s the plan for CNTs in electronics: first RF analog communication devices, then digital logic.


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