Some electronics experts have suggested that the use of silicon complementary metal oxide semiconductors (CMOS) will decrease rapidly by the end of 2020. Despite their predictions, this is a class of alternative materials that can effectively maintain the computing power of new devices, while maintaining good energy efficiency is still well established.
In recent years, researchers have proposed various materials that could ultimately replace current CMOS devices. Some of the most promising candidates are carbon nanotube (CNT) based electronics that can be manufactured using a variety of techniques.
A team of researchers from Beijing University and Xiangtan University in China recently conducted a study that looked at the potential of CNT materials for electronics manufacturing. In their article published in Nature Electronics, the researchers discussed the development of CMOS field-effect transistors based on nanotubes over time, and at the same time presented some of the CNT materials that are currently available to electronics manufacturers.
"CNT is an ideal electronic material that offers solutions where other semiconductors generally fail, especially when scaled to less than 10 nm," Lianmao Peng, one of the researchers who conducted the study, told TechXplore. "In this work, we showed that CNT-based electronics have the potential to outperform silicon technology many times over (experimentally demonstrated the tenfold advantage) and that large-scale integrated circuits (ICs) can be manufactured using carbon nanotubes. "
The relevant physical parameters of CNTs, such as their structure and electronic properties, are now known in this field. To effectively investigate the potential limitations of CNT materials, Peng and colleagues Zhiyong Zhang and Chenguang Qiu analyzed the performance and properties of individual CNTs, focusing on these specific parameters.
"Our results show that CNT transistors at nodes with sub 10 nm technology are three times faster and four times more energy efficient than their silicon counterparts," said Peng. "We have shown that even with the very limited production facility at universities, we can manufacture transistors that far exceed silicon transistors, which suggests that the chip industry could continue to drive the current speed for many decades to come."
The study, conducted by Peng and his colleagues, provides further evidence that CNT transistors are a useful and desirable alternative to current silicon CMOS devices. In their analyzes, the researchers also highlighted some of the advantages and disadvantages of the medium-scale integrated circuits developed to date, as well as the challenges that currently stand in the way of large-scale implementation.
According to Peng and his colleagues, the development of integrated circuits (ICs) with new 3-D chip structures could further improve the performance of CNT materials and increase them hundreds of times. Their analysis and previous insights gathered by other research teams ultimately suggest that CNT technology could be the solution to provide more powerful and energy efficient chip technology in the post-Moore era.
"We can currently only produce a few extremely powerful transistors on individual CNTs, but not very complex ICs," said Peng. "On the other hand, we can build CNT-based ICs with over 10k transistors in three dimensions using CNT thin films with very limited performance. In the future, we have to combine the two research directions to build high-performance large transistors." scaled ICs with CNT films whose performance exceeds that of silicon chip technology. "
Lian-Mao Peng et al. Carbon nanotube digital electronics, Nature Electronics (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41928-019-0330-2