The finding may be the key to once again increasing the speed of computer processors, which has been stalled for the last decade.
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In the semiconductor business, it is called the “red brick wall” — the limit of the industry’s ability to shrink transistors beyond a certain size.
On Thursday, however, IBM scientists reported that they now believe they see a path around the wall. Writing in the journal Science, a team at the company’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center said it has found a new way to make transistors from parallel rows of carbon nanotubes. The advance is based on a new way to connect ultrathin metal wires to the nanotubes that will make it possible to continue shrinking the width of the wires without increasing electrical resistance. One of the principal challenges facing chip makers is that resistance and heat increase as wires become smaller, and that limits the speed of chips, which contain transistors. The advance would make it possible, probably sometime after the beginning of the next decade, to shrink the contact point between the two materials to just 40 atoms in width, the researchers said. Three years later, the number will shrink to just 28 atoms, they predicted.