While there have been significant accomplishments in CNT circuits over the years, they have come mostly at the single-nanotube level. At least two major barriers remain before CNTs can be harnessed into technologies of practical impact: First, “perfect” alignment of nanotubes has proved all but impossible to achieve, introducing detrimental stray conducting paths and faulty functionality into the circuits; second, the presence of metallic CNTs (as opposed to more desirable semiconducting CNTs) in the circuits leads to short circuits, excessive power leakage and susceptibility to noise. No CNT synthesis technique has yet produced exclusively semiconducting nanotubes.

"Carbon nanotube transistors are attractive for many reasons as a basis for dense, energy efficient integrated circuits in the future.  But, being borne out of chemistry, they come with unique challenges as we try to adapt them into microelectronics for the first time.  Chief among them is variability in their placement and their electrical properties. The Stanford work, that looks at designing circuits taking into consideration such variability, is therefore an extremely important step in the right direction," Supratik Guha, Director of the Physical Sciences Department at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center .

“This is very interesting and creative work. While there are many difficult challenges ahead, the work of Wong and Mitra makes good progress at solving some of these challenges,” added Bokor.

Realizing that better processes alone will never overcome these imperfections, the Stanford engineers managed to circumvent the barriers using a unique imperfection-immune design paradigm to produce the first-ever full-wafer-scale digital logic structures that are unaffected by misaligned and mis-positioned CNTs. Additionally, they addressed the challenges of metallic CNTs with the invention of a technique to remove these undesirable elements from their circuits.

The Stanford design approach has two striking features in that it sacrifices virtually none of CNTs’ energy efficiency and it is also compatible with existing fabrication methods and infrastructure, pushing the technology a significant step toward commercialization.

“This transformative research is made all the more promising by the fact that it can co-exist with today’s mainstream silicon technologies, and leverage today’s manufacturing and system design infrastructure, providing the critical feature of economic viability,” said Betsy Weitzman of the Focus Center Research Program at the Semiconductor Research Corporation

The engineers next demonstrated the possibilities of their techniques by creating the essential components of digital integrated systems: arithmetic circuits and sequential storage, as well as the first monolithic three-dimensional integrated circuits with extreme levels of integration.

This story is reprinted from material from Stanford University, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.