September 25, 2006

Nanowire Computing Made Practical

From the MIT Technology Review: Researchers have made efficient nanowire logic circuits that could be mass produced, slashing the size of transistors. One of the leading candidates for a technology that could make computers smaller and more powerful is based on transistors made from semiconducting nanowires. But until now, circuits made with such transistors have been impractical, because they were too power hungry and too difficult to manufacture. Now researchers at Caltech have built efficient nanowire-based circuits using a process they believe could be reliable enough for mass production. The first applications, which could be available commercially in five years, will probably be in ultrasensitive, inexpensive sensors that could detect and measure hundreds of different cancer markers or pathogens in a small sample, such as a single drop of blood. Eventually, the nanowire-based electronics could be used in processors for computing.

This nanowire-based CMOS circuit (the nanowires are too small to see) could help lead to ultrasmall computers.


Jonathan Pugh said...

Sounds promising. Smaller, more powerful computers sound great. One thing that I am always look at in considering new computing paradigms is the amount of energy that the new cpu's will use. In order to have an environment that is saturated with computers, especially mobile ones, we need low energy computing.

Brian, any ideas on if nanowires would use less energy than current technology transistors do? The article mentions a little about power consumption of older nanowires but doesn't go into any depth on the issue.

bw said...

They have the potential to use less power, but this recent breakthrough was to get them from impractical higher energy. Therefore, there is still work to be done to get to even less power.

Nanowires have a smallish time window to have some impact. Intel is at a 65 nanometer process and will start 45 nanometer in 2007. Samsung has 40 nanometers for its latest NAND and is progressing towards 20 nanometers. These wires are 30 nanometers apart and they can get them to 15 nanometers and probably less.

With the issues to get the nanowires scaled up and all of the detailed problems worked out. I think this will likely be a niche impact in the 4-10 year time span.

For really low energy usage, whatever the new technology is needs to adopt reversible computing techniques.