Carbonics, Inc. today announced that carbon nanotube technology has for the first time achieved speeds exceeding 100GHz in-radio frequency (RF) applications. The milestone eclipses the performance – and efficiency – of traditional RF-CMOS technology that is ubiquitous in modern consumer electronics including cell phones. The news opens the door for this new technology to potentially provide a powerful boost for 5G and mm-Wave technologies.
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Carbonics, Inc.’s carbon nanotube technology is made up of semiconducting aligned carbon nanotubes (the transparent lattice tubes at the bottom of this image) within a transistor device structure. The quasi ballistic transport within the carbon nanotubes acts as a super highway for electrons to speed through the device resulting in a super fast and linear radio frequency technology (Graphic: Business Wire)
The milestone was reported in the paper, “Wafer-scalable, aligned carbon nanotube transistors operating at frequencies of over 100 GHz,” published this week in the journal, Nature Electronics. A separate commentary in Nature Electronics called the research “a remarkable technology milestone.” The commentary concluded that, “We are now, finally, close to a tipping point in which nanotubes become a serious competitor to silicon in almost all areas of microelectronics.”
For nearly two decades, researchers have theorized that carbon nanotubes would be well suited as a high-frequency transistor technology due to its unique 1-dimensional electron transport characteristics. The engineering challenge has been to assemble the high purity semiconducting nanotubes into densely aligned arrays and create a working device out of the nanomaterial.
As reported in this paper, Carbonics, a venture backed start-up, has successfully overcome this challenge and for the first time demonstrated device performance exceeding RF-CMOS in key RF metrics. Projections based on scaling single carbon nanotube device metrics suggest the technology could ultimately far exceed the top-tier incumbent RF technology, GaAs.
Carbonics employs a deposition technology called ZEBRA that enables carbon nanotubes to be densely aligned and deposited onto a variety of chip substrates including silicon, silicon-on-insulator, quartz and flexible materials. This allows the technology to be directly integrated with traditional CMOS digital logic circuits and overcomes the typical problem of heterogeneous integration.
“This milestone shows that carbon nanotubes, long thought to be a promising communications chip technology, can deliver,” said Dr. Joe Qiu, Program Manager at the Army Research Office, who reviewed the research. “The next step is scaling this technology, proving that it can work in high-volume manufacturing. Ultimately, this technology could help the Army meet its needs in communications, radar, electronic warfare and other sensing applications.”
“With this exciting accomplishment, the timing is ripe to leverage our CMOS-compatible technology for the 5G and mmWave defense communication markets. We are now engaged in licensing and technology transfer partnerships with industry participants, while we continue to advance this disruptive RF technology,” said Carbonics’ CEO Kos Galatsis. Carbonics believes that its ZEBRA technology will likely first be adopted in military applications before being used more broadly.
In 2014, Carbonics was spun-out from the joint center of UCLA-USC and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) called the Center of Excellence for Green Nanotechnologies and academic funding support from SRC, DARPA and the U.S. Air Force. The work published in Nature Electronics was funded by the US Army contract No. W911NF19P002 and by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology Center (KACST).
About Carbonics, Inc.
Carbonics aims to revolutionize the billion-dollar RF semiconductor market by employing CMOS plus carbon towards a single 5G wireless chip to vastly improve the power consumption and performance of 5G and mmWave products. For more information, visit carbonicsinc.com.
About the Army Research Office
The Army Research Office is an element of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.