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A Chip The Size Of A Pinhead?

Industry Monitor

A Chip the Size of a Pinhead?

On tomorrow's chips, transistors could come in the shape of carbon nanotubes--tiny, bacteria-size clumps of atoms. While researchers have been suggesting this for years, two new university projects indicate that carbon nanotechnology is getting set to move from laboratories to factories.

Materials-science researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have found a clever way to make nano-tubes into on/off switches. Such transistors could pave the way to nanotube circuits on futuristic chips the size of a pinhead. The basic idea is deceptively simple: Make an X with two nanotubes. Getting the nano X to work like a switch took some jiggering, though. That's because nanotubes are slippery buggers--minute changes can produce huge shifts in their electrical properties.

Finding ways to stabilize the characteristics of carbon nanotubes is a focus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the Apr. 21 issue of Science, a multidisciplinary team reports that a particular catalyst used to create nanotubes seems to tip the balance toward their behaving more like a metal than an insulator. As the production methods are refined, it may be possible to crank out nanotubes with stable, predictable properties.Edited by Adam AstonReturn to top


And the Shingo Goes to...

Considered the Nobel prize of manufacturing, the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing was awarded to eight factories in April. Named after Shigeo Shingo, a pioneer of just-in-time production techniques, the awards single out sites that have achieved dramatic performance improvements thanks to the application of JIT strategies. This year's winners: BAXTER HEALTHCARE

Production of intravenous and dialysis solutions are nearly perfect at Baxter's North Cove (N.C.) facility.FREUDENBERG-NOK

Since 1995, the maker of O-ring gaskets has improved on-time delivery to 99.3% at its plant in LaGrange, Ga.DELPHI AUTOMOTIVE SYSTEMS

Won one prize for a Saginaw (Mich.) steering systems plant where it rearranged 81% of the shop floor to improve material flow. And in Matamoros, Mexico, not a single lost day was recorded after 7.7 million work-hours in 1999.GRUPO CYDSA

Achieved a 74% quality cost reduction over the past five years at its polyvinyl chloride resin plant near Mexico City.LOCKHEED MARTIN

Cut the cost of an F-16 by 38% over five years at its plant in Fort Worth, Tex.FORD

Achieved 100% on-time delivery of its V-8 and V-10 engines in 1999 from its Windsor Engine Plant in Ontario, Canada.LUCENT TECHNOLOGIES

At its Mt. Olive (N.J.) wireless center, product-development time, cost of goods, and defects have been cut more than 50% since 1996.Return to top

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