While computers continue to get smaller, they're constantly being pushed to do more. Whether they're doubling as a phone, a camera, or an MP3 player, there seems to be no end to the tasks we expect them to carry out. And as always, we say we want them to "do all that stuff and be smaller."
A limitation of the miniaturization process is that the more computers are asked to do, the more memory they require. One of the computer's basic elements, the transistor, could soon reach its miniaturization limit. The smaller we make transistors, the more susceptible they are to quantum phenomena like electrons tunneling through the barriers between wires. Which, while ticklish for the barrier, can just be really annoying.
This has apparently annoyed researchers at the U.K.'s University of Nottingham, as well, albeit for different reasons. This transistor dilemma has led them to look into the viability of carbon nanotubes to help create fast, cheap, and compact memory that uses little power. … Read more