The incredible shrinking circuit

Mar 28, 2011
The incredible shrinking circuit

(PhysOrg.com) -- Just when it seemed that microchips couldn't get any tinier, a technique developed by researchers here at the University of Cambridge Engineering Department could lead to chips which are not only smaller, but can support electrical current densities five times greater than the current technology.

The technique, developed by Professor John Robertson and Santiago Esconjauregui use special arrangements of to carry electric current through the microchips.

Microchips, also known as integrated circuits (ICs), are used in almost all , from computers to mobile phones to any number of the digital appliances found in the average household. Their small size and low production cost have revolutionised the consumer electronics industry.

Integrated circuits are constructed in layers, each with many separate electrical components that are connected together by tiny , both within and between the layers. As manufacturers attempt to make smaller and smaller, the copper connectors must become smaller too. This results in the electrical current density within the copper becoming proportionally higher, until eventually no more current can be passed through the copper connector.

Professor Robertson and his colleagues have devised a method using carbon nanotubes to replace the vertical copper connectors in ICs, allowing ever smaller circuits to be built, reducing the size of electronics even further.

Carbon nanotubes consist of a special arrangement of carbon atoms. Normally, as in , the atoms are arranged hexagonally and layered in sheets. In nanotubes however, the sheets are rolled up to form minute tubes. The diameter of these tubes is the equivalent to just a few carbon atoms.

Individual carbon nanotubes can support extremely high electrical current densities, and are excellent candidates to replace copper to connect IC layers. However, in order for this to be feasible, the nanotubes need to be grown in very dense bundles directly onto the substrate.

Nanotube bundles are normally grown by depositing a thin film of a catalyst, such as iron, onto the substrate and changing the properties of the catalyst through the use of heat, a process known as annealing. Annealing produces a series of nanoparticles which are the basis for the growth of each nanotube. This method does produce nanotube bundles, but they have limited spatial density, and carry insufficient electrical current for microchip purposes.

Professor Robertson and his colleagues have devised a method for growing nanotube bundles through multiple deposition and annealing steps, resulting in successive increases in nanoparticle density. The resulting bundles have a density that is five times greater than the closest available technology, with further density increases possible in the future.

Explore further: Mirror-image forms of corannulene molecules could lead to exciting new possibilities in nanotechnology

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User comments : 7

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apex01
5 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2011
When will these new chips be commercialized and reach the market?
ppnlppnl
1 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2011

"When will these new chips be commercialized and reach the market?"

Yeah, Dammit! Where is my flying car!
El_Nose
3 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2011
if the research is today and that means 2 years for the commercial industry to industrialize the process and then 2 yrs of testing and ready for you and me by late 2017
n0ns3ns0r
1 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2011
Wow. People can't wait to unload their wallets for unproven technology that is likely to be expensive, extremely complicated to produce and tightly controlled by a highly centralized system... a cartel, if you will. Most of what is on the market now is cheap (in terms of quality) and unreliable. "Carbon nanotubes" or "quantum chips" will just be another marketing ploy. I'm sure Intel already has the marketing department working hard on the commercials.
antialias
5 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2011
Wow. People can't wait to unload their wallets for unproven technology that is likely to be expensive, extremely complicated to produce and tightly controlled by a highly centralized system... a cartel, if you will.

Tinfoil hat?
that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2011
Wow. People can't wait to unload their wallets for unproven technology that is likely to be expensive, extremely complicated to produce and tightly controlled by a highly centralized system... a cartel, if you will. Most of what is on the market now is cheap (in terms of quality) and unreliable. "Carbon nanotubes" or "quantum chips" will just be another marketing ploy. I'm sure Intel already has the marketing department working hard on the commercials.


So in the long view, you'd rather have a computer that costs millions of dollars, needs constant replacement of vacuum tubes, and does a few thousand operations a second, which is less than your $2 calculator.

Something new and unproven will always have some bugs to work out, but history basically says you're a huge retard.
thematrix606
not rated yet Apr 06, 2011
but history basically says you're a huge retard.


I like you... :)