(photo credit: Courtesy)
Carbon-nanotube (CNT) technology developed at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is poised to replace silicon chips in the world of electronics, according to a study just published in the journal Nature Communications.
Since their discovery, CNTs have fascinated many researchers because of their chemical sensitivity and unprecedented electrical, optical, thermal and mechanical properties. Recently, a complete computer based on CNT circuits was developed, and in the future, said the Haifa researchers, they may be able to replace the silicon chip as the building block of electronics.
One of the biggest challenges of implementing CNTs are due to the special conditions required for their manufacturing.
The new technology, that is researched by Prof. Yuval Yaish of the Technion’s Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering and the Zisapel Nanoelectronics Center, creates the necessary conditions.
In addition, it also makes it possible to study the dynamic properties of CNTs, that because of their nanometer size (CNTs are 100,000 times smaller than a human hair) are extremely difficult to work with.
Together with graduate student Gilad Zeevi and doctoral student Michael Shlafman, Yaish developed a simple, rapid, and scalable technique that enables optical imaging of CNTs: “The integrated circuit – the chip – is the biggest breakthrough in electronics so far,” said Yaish, “and we believe that the method we developed will serve as an applicable platform for the integration of nano-electronics with silicon technologies, and possibly even the replacement of these technologies in molecular electronics.
“The CNT is an amazing and very strong building block with remarkable electrical, mechanical and optical properties.
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Some of them are conductors and some are semiconductors, and therefore they are considered a future replacement for silicon,” he said.
Yaish added that existing methods for the production of CNTs are very slow and costly and, in general, could not be industriously implemented.
“Our approach is the opposite of the norm. We grow the CNTs directly, and with the aid of the organic crystals that coat the CNTs we can see them under a microscope very quickly.”
The goal is the integration of CNTs in an integrated circuit of miniaturized electronic components, mainly transistors, on a single chip (VLSI), which could, as stated, replace silicon electronics, he concluded.
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