Nanotubes may form gigahertz oscillators for nanocomputers

A brief item on the Physical Review Focus website ("Nanotubes in the fast lane", by J.R. Minkel, 18 January 2002) summarizes a paper in the 28 January 2002 print issue of Physical Review Letters in which researchers calculate that a group of concentric nanotubes nested inside an outer set of tubes can slide back and forth a billion times every second. Such a gigahertz oscillator could be a major advance in nanotechnology that would enable applications such as ultra-fast optical filters and nano-antennae. The researchers contend that the low friction between tubes — a tenth or less of the nano-newton-scale attractive force — allows the ensuing oscillation to match a Pentium 4 computer chip's speed in processing electronic signals, and that this demonstrates the feasibility of fabricating such devices.

Some readers of this article may find interesting echoes of the rod logic mechanical nanocomputer proposed by K. Eric Drexler back in 1988.

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