A team of Stanford scientists has built a working computer out of carbon nanotubes, a nigh-impossible feat that could herald silicon's eventual replacement. Granted, the device (which is named "Cedric," the BBC notes) isn't terribly useful, containing as many transistors as the earliest 1950s computers. But it can run a basic OS, perform calculations, and switch between processes. "It really is a computer in every sense of the word," the project's lead electrical engineer tells the Wall Street Journal .
Carbon nanotubes are rolled out of sheets of pure carbon that are one atom thick. A bundle of 10,000 would be about the width of a human hair. They're extremely promising conductors, but must be grown like crystals, and tend to develop impurities. "People said you would never be able to manufacture this stuff," one Stanford engineer says. The results could extend the theoretical limits of Moore's Law (up to a point anyway), because the nanotubes have the potential to be vastly superior to silicon, CNET observes. (Read more carbon nanotubes stories.)