I.B.M. scientists are reporting progress in a chip making technology that is likely to ensure the shrinking of the size of the basic digital switch at the heart of modern microchips for more than another decade.
Carbon nanotubes are one of three promising technologies that engineers hope will be perfected in time to keep the industry on its Moore’s Law pace. Graphene is another promising material that is being explored, as well as a variant of the standard silicon transistor, which is known as a tunneling field effect transistor.
Carbon nanotubes are essentially single sheets of carbon rolled into nanoscale tubes. In the Nature Nanotechnology paper, the I.B.M. researchers described how they were able to place ultra-small rectangles of the material in regular arrays by placing them in a soapy mixture that makes them soluble in water. They used a process they described as “chemical self-assembly” to create the patterned array in which the nanotubes stick in some areas of the surface while other areas are left untouched.