Researchers at UCSD and Clemson University have discovered that specially synthesized carbon nanotube structures exhibit electronic properties that are improved over conventional transistors used in computers. In a paper published* in the September issue of Nature Materials and released online on August 14, UCSD Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering professors Prabhakar Bandaru and Sungho Jin, graduate student Chiara Daraio, and Clemson physicist Apparao M. Rao reported that Y-shaped nanotubes behave as electronic switches similar to conventional MOS (metal oxide semiconductor) transistors, the workhorses of modern microprocessors, digital memory, and application-specific integrated circuits.
“This is the first time that a transistor-like structure has been fabricated using a branched carbon nanotube,” said Bandaru. “This discovery represents a new way of thinking about nano-electronic devices, and I think people interested in creating functionality at the nanoscale will be inspired to explore the ramifications of these Y-junction elements in greater detail.”
The stunning increase in the speed and power efficiency of electronics over the past two decades was primarily due to the steady shrinkage in size of conventional transistors. Chip makers have reduced the minimum feature size of transistors to about 100 nanometers, and that dimension is expected to shrink by the end of this decade. However, industry experts predict that fundamental technological and financial limits will prevent the makers of conventional MOS transistors to reduce their size much further. The Y-shaped nanotubes discussed in the Nature Materials paper are only a few tens of nanometers thick and can be made as thin as a few nanometers.
Rex Graham | EurekAlert!
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