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Carbon Nanotubes to Increase Battery Life

Researchers at the University of Illinois have designed a low-power digital memory that is fast and energy efficient. The technology could enhance battery life in portable applications.

The team led by professor of electrical and computer engineering Eric Pop, will publish its findings in the Science magazine and the March 10 online Science Express. Pop's group reduced the energy per bit by concentrating on size. The team utilized carbon nanotubes, which are a few nanometers in diameter. Feng Xiong, who is the lead author of the paper, said that his team could reduce power consumption with nanoscale contacts.

The team kept a bit of PCM in a nanoscale gap in the center of a carbon nanotube. The bit can be switched on or off by flowing small amounts of current through the nanotube. Nanotubes are resistant to erosion unlike metal wires. The PCM that acts as the bit does not get erased by a scanner or magnet.

The low-power PCM bits could be used in existing devices for a significant increase in battery life. Right now, a smart phone uses about a watt of energy and a laptop runs on more than 25 watts. Some of that energy goes to the display, but an increasing percentage is dedicated to memory.

The team says nanotube memory can make an iPhone's energy efficient by increasing battery life. The iPhone could also operate by harvesting thermal, mechanical or solar energy using the nanotube PCM memory. This will also make storage cost- effective. The low-power memory could provide three-dimensional  imaging by piling chips.

The team has developed hundreds of bits, and wants to increase manufacture to design arrays of memory bits operating simultaneously.



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