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We have fabricated single-wall carbon nanotube field-effect transistors (CNFETs) in a conventional metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) structure, with gate electrodes above the conduction channel separated from the channel by a thin dielectric. These top gate devices exhibit excellent electrical characteristics, including steep subthreshold slope and high transconductance, at gate voltages close to 1 V—a significant improvement relative to previously reported CNFETs which used the substrate as a gate and a thicker gate dielectric. Our measured device performance also compares very well to state-of-the-art silicon devices. These results are observed for both p- and n-type devices, and they suggest that CNFETs may be competitive with Si MOSFETs for future nanoelectronic applications. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.