Researchers Hope to Unlock
Capabilities of Carbon Nanotubes

Results of New Project Could Transform Electronics Industry

July 2, 2007

In a three-year project that researchers say could revolutionize the electronics industry, engineers at The University of Texas at Dallas are attempting to establish a standard means for tapping the potential of carbon nanotubes.

Ever since they emerged in the early 1990s, nanotubes have promised to enable a whole new wave of technology, including ultra-fast computers that leave today’s machines in their dust.  But despite advances in manufacturing the tiny graphite cylinders, there’s still no standard approach for making electrical contact with them.

“We think carbon nanotubes are ideal candidates to be the building blocks of electronic devices of the future, but to exploit their unique properties you have to be able to connect them to the outside world,” said Dr. Moon Kim, a professor of electrical engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas and the project’s principal investigator.  “This will be the first time anyone has determined the extensive metal contacts that need to be established with nanotubes in order to incorporate them into new technology.”

Carbon nanotubes are particularly attractive because of their ability to carry electrical current without dissipating much heat, and heat loss is one of the semiconductor industry’s chief enemies as silicon chips’ physical features become ever smaller.

Nanotubes themselves bring new meaning to the word “small.” Their walls can be just one atom thick, forcing researchers to find a way to make an electrical connection between our big clunky world and nanotubes’ almost impossibly small one.

The $225,000 grant that’s funding the research is one of eight awarded through the new Nano-Bio-Information Technology Symbiosis program, or NBIT, jointly operated by the South Korean Ministry of Science and Technology and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.  The other U.S. universities receiving grants through the program are Harvard, Caltech, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, the University of Michigan and the University of Cincinnati.

“Not only is this research grant itself important, but it’s part of a trend in which we’ve been successfully competing and collaborating with some of the most prestigious engineering schools in the country,” said Dr. Bob Helms, dean of the Jonsson School.  “And international collaborations like this are clearly going to be an increasingly important part of the way universities conduct research.”

The eight grant winners emerged from a field of more than 50 research proposals submitted to NBIT.  Each grant involves collaborative research between U.S. and Korean researchers.  The UT Dallas researchers are collaborating with a team from South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University as well as a team from the University of Pittsburgh.

About the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

The Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science is one of the fastest-growing engineering schools in the United States. With nearly 3,000 students and more than 100 faculty, the school is in the midst of a $300 million initiative that includes the recent completion of a 192,000-square-foot interdisciplinary research building. Areas of research at the school include nanotechnology, human language technology, cybersecurity, telecommunications, bioengineering, and analog circuits and systems. For more information please visit ecs.utdallas.edu.

About UT Dallas

The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor, enrolls more than 14,500 students.  The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores.  The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs.  For additional information about UT Dallas, please visit the university’s website at www.utdallas.edu.


Contacts: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, jennib@utdallas.edu

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UT Dallas researchers are using nickel electrodes to explore making electrical contact with a carbon nanotube that is about one-100,000th the width of a human hair.

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