Wonder material graphene has been touted as the next silicon, with one major problem – it is too conductive to be used in computer chips. Now scientists from The University of Manchester have given its prospects a new lifeline.
In a paper published this week in Science, a Manchester team lead by Nobel laureates Professor Andre Geim and Professor Konstantin Novoselov has literally opened a third dimension in graphene research. Their research shows a transistor that may prove the missing link for graphene to become the next silicon.
Graphene – one atomic plane of carbon – is a remarkable material with endless unique properties, from electronic to chemical and from optical to mechanical.
One of many potential applications of graphene is its use as the basic material for computer chips instead of silicon. This potential has alerted the attention of major chip manufactures, including IBM, Samsung, Texas Instruments and Intel. Individual transistors with very high frequencies (up to 300 GHz) have already been demonstrated by several groups worldwide.
Unfortunately, those transistors cannot be packed densely in a computer chip because they leak too much current, even in the most insulating state of graphene. This electric current would cause chips to melt within a fraction of a second.
This problem has been around since 2004 when the Manchester researchers reported their Nobel-winning graphene findings and, despite a huge worldwide effort to solve it since then, no real solution has so far been offered.