Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 17/10/2001You've gotta love Bell Labs. Not content with inventing the transistor, the research arm of Lucent -- which is a bit like calling Einstein the Princeton town scientist -- has found the transistor's ending.

Wednesday 17/10/2001

You've gotta love Bell Labs. Not content with inventing the transistor, the research arm of Lucent -- which is a bit like calling Einstein the Princeton town scientist -- has found the transistor's ending. To be precise, it's come up with a transistor where the active bit is just one molecule wide. As they say, you can't get smaller than that -- and past that point, we're going to have to do something completely different to keep Moore's Law working.

What's particularly exciting about this is the way the transistors are made. They make themselves: you dunk some electrodes in a beaker of sludge, and the sludge molecules align themselves in the right place. Moreover, the sludge is organic. Already, the inventors are talking about self-assembling processors -- and IBM is doing work on self-healing, self-reconfiguring systems that could presumably combine with this technology to produce something startlingly like hyper-evolutionary life. Just imagine the viruses you could download with one of those in your modem. Hm.

One final worrisome point: the active molecules in the transistor are thiols. Which are sulphur-bearing carbon molecules, also found as the active ingredient in certain North American mammals noted for their odiferousness. Seems like Bell Labs is a real skunk works.