February 06, 2007

Telescoping nanotubes offer new option for nonvolatile memory

Design of the telescoping carbon nanotube in three positions: (a) equilibrium, (b) inner nanotube in contact with right electrode, and (c) inner nanotube in contact with left electrode. An applied electrostatic force pulls the inner nanotube to the desired position. Credit: Jeong Won Kang, et al.

When one hollow nanotube is inserted into a second (slightly larger) nanotube, scientists can achieve a rapid telescoping motion that can be applied to binary or triple digit memory for future molecular-scale computers.

With platinum electrodes, the scientists’ simulation achieved switching times of around 10**-11 seconds, and data erasing times of around 10**-12 seconds—very competitive with top designs. Jiang and Jeong Won Kang have designed a device that could provide both nonvolatile RAM and terabit solid-state storage based on these telescoping nanotubes.

Jiang said. “It is likely that a functioning prototype of a molecular processor will be demonstrated in the next two to three years, but commercialization will face many challenges, such as the lack of infrastructure for mass production.”

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