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Carbon-Nanotube Wiring Gets Real

With a need to replace copper chip interconnects in sight, a potential successor is finally proving itself

3 min read

Could carbon nanotubes have a shot at replacing the ­copper wires that connect millions of transistors on today’s ­silicon chips? Chip makers replaced aluminum interconnects with better conducting ­copper ones about seven years ago, but now copper’s days are ­numbered too. Higher-performance chips with more-tightly packed transistors, expected as soon as 2012, will need interconnects less than 40 nanometers wide, at which point copper’s resistance will slow signaling down too much.

Late last month, at the Materials Research Society’s spring meeting in San Francisco, a team of ­engineers from Stanford and Toshiba reported that they have used ­carbon ­nanotubes to wire logic-circuit components on a ­conventional silicon CMOS chip. They claim to have shown that nanotubes can shuttle data at speeds of a little faster than 1 gigahertz, close to the range of state-of-the-art microprocessors, which run at speeds of 2 to 3 GHz.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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