Carbon nanotube circuits: the new silicon chip?

Materials World magazine
1 Aug 2014
Copyright USC Viterbi/Chongwu Zhou

What is it?
A flexible, energy-efficient hybrid circuit combining carbon nanotube thin-film transistors with those comprising indium, gallium and zinc oxide (IGZO).

Who is involved?
Researchers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering in Los Angeles, USA.

What is it used for?
The technology has potential applications in organic LEDs, digital circuits, radio frequency identification tags and wearable electronics, which, in particular, could have significant medical applications. Research Assistant, Haitian Chen, says, ‘One day we’ll be able to print these circuits as easily as newspapers’.

What inspired the work?
Electrical Engineering Professor, Dr Chongwu Zhou, started off trying to turn carbon nanotubes into n-type transistors. ‘One day, the idea came to me,’ he said. ‘Instead of working so hard to force nanotubes to do something that they are not good for, why don’t we just find another material which would be ideal for n-type transistors – in this case, IGZO – so we can achieve complementary circuits?’

What could the device replace?
With its increased transparency, flexibility and low production costs, this new material could take the place of silicon as the traditional transistor material used in electronic chips.