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May 29th, 2005
Intel scientists are evaluating the use of carbon nanotubes in future transistors, the tiny on/off switches used to transmit electrical signals inside chips, said Rob Willoner, a technology analyst for Intel Research.
Chip makers will continue to use silicon, which has long been the base material for chip manufacturing, for several more generations. Intel's roadmap, for one, includes at least four more silicon-based chip manufacturing process generations, with the last one beginning in 2011.
But the ability to decrease the size of today's silicon-based transistors, which in turn allows chip makers to boost their chips' performance by packing more transistors into each processor, will eventually hit a wall, leading chip makers to look elsewhere. (That date, which could change due to breakthroughs, is likely to be around 2020, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.)
That's the point at which carbon nanotubes, nanowires or other materials and manufacturing techniques made possible by nanotech research could come into play.
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