In a throwback to the bulky electromechanical computers of the 1940s, future memory chips might harbor moving parts, gently nudging each other. This time, data would be stored by billions of carbon nanotubes acting as mechanical switches.
Gehan Amaratunga of the University of Cambridge in England and his collaborators grew pairs of 60-nanometer-wide nanotubes standing vertically at prescribed spots on a silicon chip. They left one of the nanotubes in each pair naked, while coating the other one with an insulating and a metallic layer. They then put a positive voltage on the naked nanotube through an electrode at its base.