Nanotubes could help cell phones run 100x longer

Smaller circuits + better energy use = longer battery life

Researchers at Illinois University have developed a way to replace the metal wires in flash-memory components with carbon nanotubes, potentially reducing power use enough that mobile devices could run 100 times longer with the same batteries than is possible now.

Carbon nanotubes are 10,000 times thinner than a human hair -- a fraction the diameter of the circuits used in PC CPUs, according to Feng Xiong and Prof. Eric Pop, authors of the report, that was published in this week's Science. Intel processor circuits are typically between 45 nanometers and 65 nanometers of the circuits in a PC CPU.

"The energy consumption is essentially scaled with the volume of the memory bit," Xiong told U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. "By using nanoscale contacts, we are able to achieve much smaller power consumption."

The result is promising, but the research will take years to turn into real technology. So if you're placing bets on the IT future, put your short-term investment money in batteries instead.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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