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Researchers Build a CPU Without Silicon Using Carbon Nanotubes

It is no secret that silicon manufacturing is an expensive and difficult process which requires big investment and a lot of effort to get right. Take Intel's 10 nm for example. It was originally planned to launch in 2015, but because of technical difficulties, it got delayed for 2019. That shows how silicon scaling is getting more difficult than ever, while costs are rising exponentially. Development of newer nodes is expected to cost billions of Dollars more, just for the research alone and that is not even including the costs for the setting up a manufacturing facility. In order to prepare for the moment when the development of ever-decreasing size nodes becomes financially and physically unfeasible, researchers are exploring new technologies that could replace and possibly possess even better electrical properties than silicon. One such material (actually a structure made from it) is Carbon Nanotube or CNT in short.

Researchers from MIT, in collaboration with scientists from Analog Devices, have successfully built a CPU based on RISC-V architecture entirely using CNTs. Called RV16X Nano, this CPU is currently only capable of executing a classic "Hello World" program. CNT is a natural semiconductor, however, when manufactured, it is being made as a metallic nanotube. That is due to the fact that metallic nanotubes are easier to integrate into the manufacturing ecosystem. Its has numerous challenges in production because CNTs tend to position themselves randomly in XYZ axes. Researchers from MIT and Analog Devices solved this problem by making large enough surfaces so that enough random tubes are positioned well.

IBM Researchers Demo Initial Steps toward Commercial Fabrication of Carbon Nanotubes

IBM scientists have demonstrated a new approach to carbon nanotechnology that opens up the path for commercial fabrication of dramatically smaller, faster and more powerful computer chips. For the first time, more than ten thousand working transistors made of nano-sized tubes of carbon have been precisely placed and tested in a single chip using standard semiconductor processes. These carbon devices are poised to replace and outperform silicon technology allowing further miniaturization of computing components and leading the way for future microelectronics.

OCZ demonstrates the future of cooling

OCZ has been showing off its latest computer cooling technology at Computex 2007 this week - a heatsink made of directional carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are an allotrope of carbon (ie. a certain form of carbon - diamond and graphite are other examples) and are predicted to be the next major advancement in cooling, due to their superior thermal conduction properties compared to current materials such as copper and aluminium. According to OCZ, carbon nanotubes are five times more efficient than copper when it comes to cooling, and due to their design they can be used to transfer heat in just one direction - other materials such as copper tend move heat more radially, which isn't always desirable. They are constructed by making small wire-like structures using sheets of graphene just one atom thick and rolling them into cylinders, which allows heat to be moved in one direction as it is moved along the alignment of the nanotubes. The cooler itself is called the OCZ Hydrojet, but there is no information on when this will be available for retail - or how large the dent in your savings will be if you want to buy one.
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