In the hype-filled world of nanotechnology, Phaedon Avouris, head of IBM Research’s nanoscience and technology group, has a reputation as a meticulous and somewhat skeptical scientist. By his own description, he is one of those researchers whom reporters call to get a “realistic assessment” of the latest nanotech breakthrough. These days, though, the IBM chemist sounds uncharacteristically upbeat. The reason for his excitement can be seen in a microscopic image recently produced in his lab. It shows a thin thread draped over several thick gold electrodes. What is not so apparent is that the thread, a single carbon nanotube, has been modified and positioned so that it forms two types of transistors, each a few nanometers (billionths of a meter) in diameter- a hundred times smaller than the transistors now found on computer chips. What’s more, the nanotube transistors work together as a logic gate, the fundamental computer component responsible for selectively routing electrical signals, transforming them into meaningful ones and zeroes.The IBM device is one of the first examples of electronic circuitry constructed out of individual molecules. And while it’s merely a crude laboratory demonstration, its successful fabrication is nevertheless a further tantalizing clue that carbon nanotubes could one… Read full this story
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