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Silicon field-effect transistors (FETs) were developed in the late 1950s as a scaled-down, energy-efficient substitute for bipolar junction transistors. They paved the way for the high-density integrated circuits that today underlie most electronics (see the article by Alan Fowler, Physics Today, October 1993, page 59). With their lower gate voltages, carbon nanotube FETs could surpass silicon FET energy efficiency by nearly a factor of 10. In 2013 Subhasish Mitra, Max Shulaker (then at Stanford University), and coworkers made the first CNFET microprocessor; it comprised 178 transistors and could run a single operation.

Variability caused by the production process has made moving beyond that proof-of-concept computer challenging. Gage Hills, Christian Lau, and coworkers in Shulaker’s group at MIT have now overcome that hurdle with a protocol for wafer-scale CNFET microprocessor production. Their technique is also compatible with existing CMOS infrastructure, which lowers the bar for future commercial implementation.

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Category: Science