Enabling 1000x Improvements in Computing
Aligned Carbon produces the highest quality carbon nanotubes (CNTs), in a manufacturable form factor, to meet the integrated circuit industry’s exacting specifications. Its CNTs are perfectly aligned in arrays covering full semiconductor substrates and purified to be either entirely semiconducting or entirely metallic, all while maintaining CMOS compatibility. Beyond meeting the standards for integrated circuit manufacturing, Aligned Carbon’s CNTs hold promise for realizing higher frequency RF devices, providing a high-performance transistor material for displays/thin film transistors, and advanced nano-sensor applications as well.
In 2018, Cara Beasley, Gregory Pitner, and J Provine brought their deep experience and expertise in carbon nanotubes and semiconductor manufacturing to co-found Aligned Carbon. Beasley and Provine are fellows in Cyclotron Road’s fifth cohort.
Cara Beasley is an expert in carbon materials, particularly single-walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) growth. For four years after earning a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Stanford University, she worked as a process engineer at Applied Materials. Gregory Pitner is an expert in semiconductor materials and devices, especially carbon nanotube-based field-effect transistors. He pioneered methods for using carbon nanotube semiconductors in high performance transistors while earning his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University. Provine is an expert in nanofabrication and interfacial engineering. He worked as a senior research scientist at Stanford University for a decade, during which he also devoted time to teaching and advising students.
Since its founding, Aligned Carbon has been accepted into StartX and Cyclotron Road, awarded an NSF SBIR grant to develop manufacturable carbon nanotubes relevant to integrated circuit manufacturing, chosen as a finalist for the World Materials Forum Start-Up Challenge, and secured major customers for its product.
The unique chemical structure of carbon nanotubes produces a variety of material properties, and in particular unmatched performance as a transistor channel. However, for these benefits to be realized for humanity, CNTs must be manufactured in a way that can scale to the highest level. In particular, the use of CNTs in future computer chips can enable 1000x improvement in computing efficiency through a combination of improved speed and reduced power consumption. This improvement comes from the implementation of CNT logic in monolithic 3D integration with silicon integrated circuits. No other architecture or material set can match this promise, which is crucial for realizing the coming wave of data-intensives computing applications such as AR/VR and machine learning.
Aligned Carbon’s CNTs will enable the manufacture of monolithic 3D integrated systems, in which layers of CNT-based logic can be stacked on top of silicon integrated circuits to provide computing chips with faster operation, less energy consumption, and a smaller footprint than conventional chips. Aligned CNTs are the best route for monolithic integration because of their high transistor performance, low thermal budget, and low film stress processing. The vision is for CNTs inside every phone, tablet, laptop, and server blade, starting with successful introduction of Aligned’s CNTs into an IC manufacturing foundry. From there, performance and yield will continuously improve until high-volume manufacturing is achieved. While ICs are the startup’s north star market, there are exciting applications within RF for ultrahigh frequency data transmission, higher performance transistors for displays/thin film transistors, and ultra-high spatial resolution nano-sensor applications as well.
Potential for Impact
Aligned Carbon is enabling massively faster computing for all. For decades the world has benefited from exponentially increasing computing due to circuit shrinking. The benefits of 2D scaling have nearly been saturated, but monolithic 3D offers a new paradigm of exponential computing increase. Aligned Carbon’s CNTs will be key to improving computing performance by 1000x within the next 10-15 years. All data intensive forms of computation — particularly machine learning, augmented and virtual reality applications — will benefit from this paradigm shift in how computing architectures are designed.
founders [at] alignedcarbon [dot] com
Banner image: Kvistholt Photography