Scientists, led by an Indian-origin researcher, have developed the world's first computer built entirely with carbon nanotubes, opening the door to a new generation of faster-running digital devices.
Carbon nanotubes (CNT) - a semiconductor material - has the potential to launch a new generation of electronic devices that run faster, while using less energy, than those made from silicon chips, researchers said.
This unprecedented feat culminates years of efforts by scientists around the world to harness this promising but quirky material.
"People have been talking about a new era of carbon nanotube electronics moving beyond silicon," said Subhasish Mitra, an electrical engineer and computer scientist at Stanford University.
"But there have been few demonstrations of complete digital systems using this exciting technology. Here is the proof," said Mitra, lead author of the study.
CNTs are long chains of carbon atoms that are extremely efficient at conducting and controlling electricity. They are so thin - thousands of CNTs could fit side by side in a human hair - that it takes very little energy to switch them off, according to Wong, a co-author of the paper.
Over time, researchers have devised tricks to grow 99.5% of CNTs in straight lines. But with billions of nanotubes on a chip, even a tiny degree of misaligned tubes could cause errors.