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Computing

Silicon Is Reaching its Limits. Up Next: Carbon Nanotubes

Silicon Is Reaching its Limits. Up Next: Carbon Nanotubes

Silicon has powered the information age, but it’s reaching its physical limits. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) hold a lot of promise as a replacement if we can get around some key obstacles—and the designers of a new chip seem to have done just that.

For decades computer power steadily increased in line with Moore’s Law, which observed that the number of transistors in a chip doubled roughly every two years. That was made possible by the progressive shrinking of these transistors, but as they approach the scale of a few tens of atoms there’s been a marked slowing in this trend.

That’s prompted a search for a successor to the traditional silicon chip that’s boosted research in areas like optical computing, brain-inspired neuromorphic chips, and processors made from exotic new materials.

One of the more promising candidates is chips made from CNTs, which have several attributes that should make…
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