Researchers at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center claim to have made a breakthrough in chip-manufacturing technology, according to a recent study published in Nature Nanotechnology. The breakthrough centers on carbon nanotubes, which are sheets of carbon atoms rolled into cylinders. After placing the small molecules in a solution of soapy water, researchers relied on the principles of self-assembly to create patterned arrays of these nanotubes, which could be used to create chips with a density over two orders of magnitude higher than previous attempts.
Carbon nanotubes are both smaller and faster than the current materials used in chipmaking, and this breakthrough would allow manufacturers to mass-produce the miniscule structures. Advances in chip density and clock speed have slowed recently, making this development crucial if manufacturers hope to keep pace with Moore's law. However, this new technology may not be available in consumer products for at least another decade, as researchers still need to find a way to further refine the carbon nanotube material in order to reach its full potential as a semiconductor.