The World’s Fastest Carbon Nanotube Transistors

World's Fastest Carbon Nanotube Transistors

Carbon nanotubes, view from above.

Another “nano” breakthrough!

Researchers have constructed the world’s fastest carbon nanotube transistors. This technological “first step” might lead to higher-performance electronics and significant extension of battery life in electronics.

Carbon nanotubes are one atom thick cylinders constructed entirely of carbon molecules. These long cylinders have exotic properties making them extremely interesting in many different areas. The carbon tubes are extremely strong, actually the strongest material ever constructed. Their novel make-up means nanotubes can either act as metals or semiconductors while being good heat conductors. Now University of Wisconsin-Madison report that they have made the world’s fastest carbon nanotube transistors.

World’s Fastest Carbon Nanotube Transistors

The finding have been published in the journal ACS Nano.

The research led by materials science Associate Professor Michael Arnold and Professor Padma Gopalan, have made the highest-performing carbon nanotube transistors ever created. The transistors have an on/off ratio that’s 1400 times better and heat conduction 100 times better than previous manufactured carbon nanotube transistors.

[pullquote]”Carbon nanotubes are very strong and very flexible, so they could also be used to make flexible displays and electronics that can stretch and bend, allowing you to integrate electronics into new places like clothing,” says Arnold. “The advance enables new types of electronics that aren’t possible with the more brittle materials manufacturers are currently using.”[/pullquote]

Sorting and Self-Assembly

Researchers used polymeres that selectively sort semiconducting carbon nanotubes from those that act like metal after synthesis. An important step since metallic carbon nanotubes would short the device. Using this method allowed researchers to create an ultra high-purity of only the semiconducting carbon nanotubes.

Other techniques used to sort only one type of carbon nanotubes are known to have issues with a too low packing density of tubes on the film they’re collected from. To address this problem researchers at Wisconsin-Madison used a new technique called floating evaporative self-assembly (FESA). Described in 2014 ACS journal Langmuir. In this technique carbon nanotubes self assemble to a desirable density when you rapidly heat a solution of carbon nanotubes.

Making the world’s fastest carbon nanotube transistors means that we are one step closer to replacing silicon transistors in computer hardware. This is sorely needed since silicon as a material have almost reached the point were there’s no more performance gain as you shrink the manufacturing process.

“This is not an incremental improvement in performance,” Arnold says. “With these results, we’ve really made a leap in carbon nanotube transistors. Our carbon nanotube transistors are an order of magnitude better in conductance than the best thin film transistor technologies currently being used commercially while still switching on and off like a transistor is supposed to function.”

If you want to read more about what carbon nanotubes can be used for look not further than these articles: Looking at a living brain, Carbon nanotube channel, Medical applications of carbon nanotubes.

Image Credit: EMSL via flickr.com, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0