The key to faster electronics is making
electrical components smaller. Along those lines, researchers are working
to make components from carbon nanotubes, which are rolled-up sheets of
carbon atoms that can be smaller than a nanometer in diameter.
Researchers from Stanford University, Purdue University and Harvard
University have advanced the field with a method for making sub-50-nanometer-long
field-effect transistors from carbon nanotubes. The devices' tiny electrodes
align automatically, and the transistors can handle the high currents
necessary for speedy circuits.
The field-effect transistors could eventually be used in very
fast, miniature circuits.
The devices are speedy because they are small enough to provide
near-ballistic electron transport at room temperature, and they work with
high-k dielectric insulators.
Electrons usually move through a transistor by bouncing off the
sides of the electron channel. More efficient ballistic transport occurs
when the channel is small enough to allow electrons to travel straight
High-k dielectric insulators hold the large amount of charge
necessary to drive the gate electrodes that control small transistors.
The researchers' prototype of a string of eight transistors made
from a single nanotube and an electrode array yields 150 millionths of
an amp, or microamps, according to the researchers.
The researchers are working on several challenges that must be
met before the nanotubes can be used as practical transistors, including
precisely controlling the structure and alignment of the tiny components
on a surface.
The method could be used to make practical electronic components
in one or two decades, according to the researchers. The work appeared
in the June 23, 2004 issue of Nano Letters.
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