IBM Tackles Nanotube Stability Problem

Loraine Lawson

If you watch the tech press much, you know that IBM is a pretty busy bee. The company's very involved with SOA and recently had a rash of releases, largely centered on data integration offerings.


But this is a company that's been around since 1911, when it debuted as a maker of punch card tabulating machines. And you just don't stay in business nearly 100 years without an eye always on the future.


So I wasn't surprised to see, hidden among the press about IBM's new Master Data Management Server, a item about IBM's research on nanotubes -- which could very well be the key to faster, smaller and more energy-efficient computer chips.


To be honest, IBM's announcement isn't overwhelmingly cool or something you'll even e-mail to all your physics geek friends. But it's a critical component of solving the nanotube problem.


Currently, carbon nanotubes can be easily altered by foreign substances. That, obviously, causes a problem when you're trying to use carbon nanotube transistors -- which scientists know how to build -- in an integrated circuit. All you have to do is look behind your computer's box to figure out why that's an issue.


So, researchers want to study the interplay between electrons and phonons in carbon nanotubes so they can figure out how to stabilize them. And that's where IBM's research comes into play. The researchers from IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights have figured out how to measure the electron density changes in carbon nanotubes once they're built into transistors.


The article in quotes Dr. Phaedon Avouris, IBM Fellow and lead researcher for IBM's carbon nanotube research:

The success of nanoelectronics will largely depend on the ability to prepare well characterized and reproducible nano-structures, such as carbon nanotubes. Using this technique, we are now able to see and understand the local electronic behavior of individual carbon nanotubes.

Like I said -- not exactly breath-taking if you're an average technology fan. But then again, who back in 1911 would've guessed punch cards would lead to supercomputers and integrated Master Data Management servers today?

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