IBM spins nanotubes, wire and graphene

IBM spins nanotubes, wire and graphene

Summary: IBM has revealed three new developments that aim to power tomorrow's digital technology. Based on nanotubes, nanowires and graphene, their common factor is compatibility with today's production techniques


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  • Circuit diagram

    This diagram displays the circuit working. This is a simple one-transistor radio circuit that doubles the input frequency, a useful technique common in wireless engineering. IBM says that the graphene transistor at the heart of this exhibits high performance into GHz frequencies, and keeps going under a wide range of operating conditions, continuing to work at 200° C.

    The combination of high-quality graphene transistors built into standard 8-inch wafers through standard production processes "is a major step in transitioning [graphene] from a scientific curiosity into a real technology", says IBM.

    Image credit: IBM

  • Racetrack diagram

    Racetrack memory is an experimental memory that works by storing multiple magnetic regions called domains, similar to those on the surface of a hard disk, on a nanowire. Although there is no physical movement of the storage medium, the domains shift along the nanowire like horses along a racetrack.

    In (a), the read line doesn't connect electrically to the nanowire; instead, it forms part of a magnetic tunnel junction — a spintronics device that combines a pulse of electricity with a magnetic reference layer to detect the movement of domains above it. Domains are injected by a pulse of electricity on the write line. Slides (b) and (c) show an actual cell close-up and with its surrounding electronics, while (d) and (e) are a 256-cell array at low and high magnification. For scale, the gold rectangles at the top of (d) are 80μm by 100μm.

    Image credit: IBM

  • Racetrack slides

    Inside the racetrack cell. MR is the nanowire, while JR is the magnetic tunnel junction. Slides (b) and (c) are actual micrographs of the device; (b) is a slice through the entire device while (c) is a detail of the 15nm-thick nanowire itself — the bright bump at the bottom — which is composed of a nickel-iron alloy.

    Apart from the nanowire itself, the magnetic tunnel junction and a couple of specialist connections labelled VR in the diagram, everything in the device is made with IBM's standard 90nm process. When fabricated on an 8-inch wafer, IBM reports that it achieved around 80-percent yield of working magnetic tunnel junctions with around 50-percent good nanowires.

    Image credit: IBM

Topics: Graphene, Emerging Tech

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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