Scientists are inching closer to nanotube computers. The latest news out of Stanford, a hotbed of nanotech research, is the creation of functional transistors that more than anything so far can approximate silicon-based computer chips. The key is in the etching.
The scientists grew nanotubes on a silicon wafer, blasted them with super-hot methane plasma, and then slapped the wafer in an even hotter vacuum. The result was semiconducting nanotubes of a consistent size and shape.
This process, the scientists insist, can be transformed into mass production of silicon chips. They are quietly confident because the new process uses a furnace previously used to make traditional silicon chips and because methane is relatively inexpensive, as chip materials go.