Superfast semiconductors no larger than bacteria. Minuscule computers woven into your clothes. These wonders will be commonplace when science learns to manipulate tiny cylinders of carbon known as nanotubes.
Such molecules are 100 times as durable as steel and can conduct electricity without releasing heat. But they're fiendishly difficult to wire onto substrates such as silicon--an essential step in making electronic devices.
A possible solution comes from researcher Sumio Iijima and his colleagues at NEC Corp. and the Japan Science & Technology Corp. Iijima, who discovered carbon nano-tubes in 1991, bakes the cylinders directly onto silicon, titanium, and other metals in a vacuum at 900C. NEC hopes to test these hot-wired nanotubes as circuits in chips and as tiny cathodes that could be the basis of next-generation flat-panel displays.