IBM research paves way for post-silicon future with carbon nanotube electronics

IBM Research (NYSE: IBM) said it has announced a major engineering breakthrough that could accelerate carbon nanotubes replacing silicon transistors to power future computing technologies.

IBM scientists demonstrated a new way to shrink transistor contacts without reducing performance of carbon nanotube devices, opening a pathway to dramatically faster, smaller and more powerful computer chips beyond the capabilities of traditional semiconductors. The results will be reported in the October 2 issue of Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.aac8006).

IBM´s breakthrough overcomes a major hurdle that silicon and any semiconductor transistor technologies face when scaling down. In any transistor, two things scale: the channel and its two contacts. As devices become smaller, increased contact resistance for carbon nanotubes has hindered performance gains until now. These results could overcome contact resistance challenges all the way to the 1.8 nanometer node, four technology generations away.

IBM has previously shown that carbon nanotube transistors can operate as excellent switches at channel dimensions of less than ten nanometers — the equivalent to 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair and less than half the size of today´s leading silicon technology. IBM´s new contact approach overcomes the other major hurdle in incorporating carbon nanotubes into semiconductor devices, which could result in smaller chips with greater performance and lower power consumption.

Earlier this summer, IBM unveiled the first seven nanometer node silicon test chip, pushing the limits of silicon technologies and ensuring further innovations for IBM Systems and the IT industry. By advancing research of carbon nanotubes to replace traditional silicon devices, IBM is paving the way for a post-silicon future and delivering on its USD3 billion chip R&D investment announced in July 2014.

Now in its 70th year, IBM Research continues to define the future of information technology with more than 3,000 researchers in 12 labs located across six continents.