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Back in 2012, I had the pleasure of visiting the IBM Watson research center.
Among the people I talked with was George Tulevski, who was working on developing carbon nanotubes as a possible replacement for silicon in some critical parts of transistors.
IBM likes to think about developing technology with about a 10-year time window, which puts us about halfway to when the company might expect to be making nanotube-based hardware.
So, how’s it going? This week, there was a bit of a progress report published in Nature Nanotechnology (which included Tulevski as one of its authors).
In it, IBM researchers describe how they’re now able to put together test hardware that pushes a carbon nanotube-based processor up to 2.8GHz.
It’s not an especially useful processor, but the methods used for assembling it show that some (but not all) of the technology needed to commercialize nanotube-based hardware is nearly ready.
The story of putting together a carbon nanotube processor is largely one of overcoming hurdles. You wouldn’t necessarily expect that; given that the nanotubes can be naturally semiconducting, they’d seem like a natural fit for existing processor technology.
But it’s a real challenge to get the right nanotubes in the right place and play nicely with the rest of the processor.
In fact, it’s a series of challenges.
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