IBM logoIBM scientists announced a remarkable engineering achievement - they have managed to exchange the silicon transistor contacts in transistors for smaller, more efficient, carbon nanotubes. This could have revolutionary potential as silicon is getting harder to shrink in size, while CNTs can allow a reduction in the size of transistors.

The smaller silicon transistor contacts get, the higher their electrical resistance becomes. There comes a point where the components simply get too small to conduct electrons efficiently and it seems that silicon is nearing that point. Carbon nanotubes, on the other hand, are a different story. They measure less than 10 nanometers in diameter (less than half the size of today's smallest silicon transistor contact) and IBM actually had to devise a new means of attaching these tiny components. Known as an "end-bonded contact scheme" the 10 nm electrical leads are chemically bonded to the metal substructure. Replacing these contacts with carbon nanotubes won't just allow for computers to crunch more data, faster. This breakthrough ensures that they'll continue to shrink, following Moore's Law, for several iterations beyond what silicon components are capable of.

IBM Research's VP of Science & Technology states that such advancements will be necessary to meet the emerging demands of cloud computing, Internet of Things and Big Data systems, since silicon is nearing its limits so new materials and circuit architectures must be ready to deliver the advanced technologies that will drive the Cognitive Computing era. This breakthrough shows that computer chips made of carbon nanotubes will be able to power systems of the future sooner than the industry expected.