Microchip

Carbon ribbons a few atoms wide could help make powerful computers

Silicon-based chips such as this could be replaced by carbon-based ones

ALFRED PASIEKA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Microchips containing ribbons of carbon just a few atoms wide could let us build powerful computers while also reducing their power consumption.

The speed and efficiency of computers and smartphones depend on the flow of electrons inside transistors, which are normally based on silicon. There have been lots of efforts to develop transistors based on carbon because of its superior electrical properties, but a key challenge has been making wires out of carbon to transport electrons between transistors.

“Just like the traditional silicon-based …