The Register reports: [edited]
IBM's big blue scientists have been given the money to solve a problem that lurks not so far in our future. That problem is the imminent breakdown in conventional chip operation and chip materials as we shrink transistor gates from today's 14nm process size to 10nm and 7nm.
At around 7nm, which most industry observers expect we will hit in the early 2020s, more and more jostling electrons will jump in and out of gates, leading to a frustrating problem known as gate current leakage.
The company sees carbon nanotubes (CNT) as a good candidate for the replacement of silicon as they are "three to ten times better than silicon tech on a [process] node-to-node basis". Production of CNT at mass scale is ramping up as well, he said: "You have to make carbon nanotubes with purity levels that are six nines. Today we are at four nines and over a year ago [we were] at 98.5 percent."
Alongside CNT, IBM is also working on III-V MOSFETs, which are transistors designed to better cope with the aforementioned leakage problems.