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"Carbon-based Computer" -- The Discovery Files


The Discovery Files
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Engineers at Stanford University have built and successfully tested the world's first computer based on carbon nanotube technology instead of silicon chips.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Goodbye Mr. Chips?

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

A major milestone in technical innovation, thanks to the work of a team of Stanford engineers. They have built and successfully tested the world's first computer based on carbon nanotube technology instead of silicon chips; could be the birth of a new generation of electronic devices that run substantially faster, cooler and more energy-efficiently.

For decades, progress in electronics has meant shrinking the size of transistors to pack more on a chip. But as transistors become tinier they waste more power and generate more heat--enough to give you a case of: "Lap burn" (Sound effect: ouch!) you've felt it with your own laptop.

Using carbon nanotubes instead of silicon chips means more efficient conductors, so thin you can fit a ton of them in a small space: Thousands fit in the width of a human hair (Sound effect: cartoon hair pluck). It takes less energy to switch them off and they run a lot cooler.

The researchers' carbon nanotube computer can count and do number sorting, and is able to switch between the two. Hey, it's a start. They hope others will be inspired by this breakthrough to help develop this new kind of computer technology for the future. Faster, better, smaller, cooler. "nano-tubular".

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.

 
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