International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), the No. 2 computer company, reported a breakthrough using carbon nanotubes that could overcome current roadblocks in the chip sector.
Scientists at IBM Research reported they've developed a carbon nanotube using conventional wafer fabrication, the way all current semiconductors are made. The advance could mean next-generation, miniaturized chips could me made on current machinery.
“At extremely small nanoscale dimensions, they outperform transistors made from any other material,” said Subratik Guha, director of physical sciences for the Armonk, N.Y.-based company. The breakthrough results were published Sunday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
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The research isn't just for it's own sake: IBM is one of the top producers of semiconductors, mainly for its own consumption in advanced servers, storage systems and other devices.
In the past, IBM's PowerPC chips were installed in consumer electronics, including Macintosh computers from Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), the world's most valuable technology company, and games like the Wii from Japan's Nintendo (Pink: NTDOY).
The main chipmakers headed by Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) are all seeking to devise solutions for ever-smaller devices.
The IBM researchers took single sheets of carbon atoms and wrapped them into a tube that forms the core of a transistor device that could replace the nearly 60-year-old conventional transistor at the heart of the electronics revolution.
IBM Research previously demonstrated that carbon tubes can operate as excellent switches at molecular dimensions, which has implications for future smartphones and portable devices.
The experiments required a new method of ion-exhange chemistry that allowed them to place carbon nanotubes onto a very dense substrate, with as many as a billion per square centimeter. That allowed as many as 10,000 transistors on a single chip.
IBM's results show “significant strides” in both the development of carbon nanotubes, as well as how they can be placed for future manufacturing, Guha said.
Shares of IBM closed Friday at $193.27, up 5 percent this year. The NYSE was closed Monday due to Hurricane Sandy.