Advanced microprocessor built from carbon nanotubes: Page 2 of 2

August 29, 2019 //By Peter Clarke
Advanced microprocessor built from carbon nanotubes
Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have built a 16bit RISC-V microprocessor using carbon nanotube based transistors; an achievement that could indicate a way beyond silicon-based electronics.

The result is a 16bit microprocessor built to the RISC-V instruction set architecture using more than 14,000 CNFETs. As a proof of its functionality the research team were able to program it to send the message: "Hello, World! I am RV16XNano, made from CNTs."

Much of the research work carried out by the team was designed to find ways round metallic CNTs that had either mandated unfeasibly high purity CNTs or killed transistor operation. By a series of work-arounds the team has allowed off-the-shelf materials to be married with conventional design flows and get CNT into practical production.

"The 'DREAM' pun is very much intended, because it's the dream solution," said Max Shulaker, the MIT physicist who led the work, in a statement on the MIT website. "This allows us to buy carbon nanotubes off the shelf, drop them onto a wafer, and just build our circuit like normal, without doing anything else special."

The researchers have started implementing their manufacturing techniques in a commercial foundry – believed to be Skywater Technology Foundry Inc. (Bloomington, Minnesota) –  through a program run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Shulaker is reported as saying improved versions of CNT chips could be in the commercial market place within five years.

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