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Aug 29, 2019

Engineers at MIT and Analog Devices have created the first fully-programmable 16-bit carbon nanotube microprocessor

Posted by in categories: computing, nanotechnology

It’s the most complex integration of carbon nanotube-based CMOS logic so far, with nearly 15,000 transistors, and it was done using technologies that have already been proven to work in a commercial chip-manufacturing facility. The processor, called RV16X-NANO, is a milestone in the development of beyond-silicon technologies, its inventors say.

Unlike silicon transistors, nanotube devices can easily be made in multiple layers with dense 3D interconnections. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is hoping this 3D aspect will lead to commercial carbon nanotube (CNT) chips with the performance of today’s cutting-edge silicon but without the high design and manufacturing cost.

Some of the same researchers created a modest one-bit, 178-transistor processor back in 2013. In contrast, the new one, which is based on the open source RISC-V instruction set, is capable of working with 16-bit data and 32-bit instructions. Naturally, the team, led by MIT assistant professor Max Shulaker, tested the chip by running a version of the obligatory “Hello, World!” program. They reported the achievement this week in Nature.

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