Infineon announces 18 nm carbon nanotube transistor

Munich - Semiconductor company Infineon said it has built the world's smallest nanotube transistor with a channel length of just 18 nm - or about one fourth the size of today's smallest mass produced transistors.

Infineon said that it grew carbon nanotubes, each one measuring only 0.7 to 1.1 nm in diameter, in a controlled process to be able to create the nanotransitor. Compared to the size of a human hair, the nanotubes are about 100,000 times thinner.

According to the chip manufacturer, the characteristic properties of carbon nanotubes make them an "ideal candidate material" for several applications in microelectronics. The tubes carry electrical current virtually without friction on their surface thanks to "ballistic" electron transport. They also can be both conducting and semiconducting.

The nanotube transistor announced can deliver currents in excess of 15 µA at a supply voltage of only 0.4 V in contrast to 0.7 V commonly used in the industry at this time. Infineon believes that carbon nanotubes may become the standard material for building transistors in the future. Carbon offers about ten times the density of today's standard material silicon and will allow researchers to further scale the miniaturizing process, according to Infineon.

The company also said that carbon nanotubes may enable the industry to decrease supply voltages down to 0.35 V, which at this time is not expected to occur before the year of 2018, according to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors organization.