Look Out, Silicon: This Computer Uses Carbon Nanotubes

Granted, it's simple and extremely slow compared to its silicon-based counterparts, but its existence marks a major step in the quest towards making ever faster and more efficient computers.

What's the Latest Development?

After months of careful work, starting with making individual transistors from carbon nanotubes and connecting them to create simple circuits, a team of Stanford researchers has succeeded in building an extremely slow but functional computer from 142 low-power carbon transistors. At one micron each, they are huge compared to their silicon counterparts, but together, given enough time, they can perform any computation. Currently, says team co-leader H.S. Philip Wong, "[i]t can run two programs concurrently, a counting program and a sorting program."

What's the Big Idea?

Although silicon transistors are decreasing in size every two years or so, allowing for faster, cheaper, and more powerful computers, experts predict that by 2020 they will reach a physical scaledown limit of five nanometers. Carbon nanotubes could either form their replacements or be used in hybrid chips that could keep silicon in the computing game a little longer. Due to the precision needed for semiconductor manufacturing, Stanford's discovery will require at least three more years of research before it hits the market.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at The New York Times

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less
Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less