Nantero, a nanotechnology start-up firm, is working with the semiconductor manufacturer LSI Logic to incorporate carbon nanotubes into high-end computer chips. If these chips go commercial next year as expected, they will represent one of the first uses of carbon nanotubes outside of the product reinforcement realm.
Nantero was cofounded in 2001 by chemists Thomas Rueckes and Brent M. Segal and businessman Greg Schmergel to commercialize nanotechnology discovered by Rueckes while he was a research fellow at Harvard University. The firm has since raised more than $15 million in venture-capital financing.
The company seeks to replace several existing forms of computer memory with one universal chip in which single-wall nanotubes are strung over an electrode. Applying an electric field to one of the nanotubes causes it to dip down and hit an electrode, completing a circuit and creating the zeros and ones with which digital memory is formed.
LSI intends to use the technology in memory chips that it will make at its Gresham, Ore., facility. Because such chips maintain data when power is turned off, they could enable “instant-on” computers, Nantero says. They could also replace conventional memory in devices such as cell phones and digital cameras.
Schmergel says Nantero will obtain its nanotubes from one of the “couple dozen” companies that already manufacture the materials, which are now used mostly for the purpose of reinforcing plastic products such as tennis rackets and automotive parts.