Stanford builds computer with carbon nanotubes

Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated the first functional computer built using only carbon nanotube transistors.

Scientists have been experimenting with transistors based on carbon nanotubes, or CNTs, as replacements for silicon transistors, which may soon hit their physical limits.

The rudimentary CNT computer is said to run a simple operating system capable of multitasking, according to a synopsis of an article published in the journal Nature.

Made of 178 transistors, each containing between 10 and 200 carbon nanotubes, the computer can do four tasks summarized as instruction fetch, data fetch, arithmetic operation and write-back, and run two different programs concurrently.

The research team was led by Stanford professors Subhasish Mitra and H.S. Philip Wong.

"People have been talking about a new era of carbon nanotube electronics moving beyond silicon," Mitra said in a statement. "But there have been few demonstrations of complete digital systems using [the] technology. Here is the proof."

IBM last October said its scientists had placed more than 10,000 transistors made of nano-size tubes of carbon on a single chip. Previous efforts had yielded chips with just a few hundred carbon nanotubes.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

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