Graphene Transistor Hurdle Cleared

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A major hurdle in the race to manufacture a graphene computer chip has been cleared by scientists at the University of Manchester. The team of researchers lead by the Nobel Laureates Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, have happily announced that the problem of graphene’s near super-conductivity has now been solved. The research finding is set to reignite the race for a graphene transistor and the race is now on to see which team will be the first to make the breakthrough device that will make graphene the new silicon.

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IBM unveil latest graphene transistor research

IBM (NYSE: IBM) scientists today unveiled several exploratory research breakthroughs that could lead to major advancements in delivering dramatically smaller, faster and more powerful computer chips.

For more than 50 years, computer processors have increased in power and shrunk in size at a tremendous rate. However, today’s chip designers are hitting physical limitations with Moore’s Law, halting the pace of product innovation from scaling alone. With virtually all electronic equipment today built on complementary-symmetry metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) technology, there is an urgent need for new materials and circuit architecture designs compatible with this engineering process as the technology industry nears physical scalability limits of the silicon transistor.

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Ink-jet printing of graphene.

The scaling up of graphene transistors just became one step closer with a piece of research conducted by a team at Cambridge University. The inspiration for this advance in flexible electronics came from F. Torrisi et al in the Department of Engineering, whose work on producing a graphene based ink by liquid phase exfoliation of graphite paved the way for printing thin-film transistors and conductive patterns. The new technique reduced the number of fabrication steps in the process of production and can be used to fabricate other devices such as photovoltics, organic LED’s, and display screens. The authors of the study suggest that the process has a number of key advantages,

“Inkjet printing (of graphene) is versatile, involves a limited number of process steps, is amenable for mass production and can deposit controlled amounts of material.”

The graphene ink is combined with one of the most commonly used organic polymers for inkjet printing. The results demonstrate not only the viability of large scale production possibilities but also indicate a significant level of performance improvement on previous techniques.

The full research paper can be read here.

Miracle Material.

Graphene is without doubt peculiarly splendid and is quickly establishing itself as the champion of materials; grabbing for itself various records in the world of physical properties.  The accolades seem to accumulate every day, with research into the substance being one of the hottest areas in materials science. But what are the most surprising of its properties. Well…

  1. Strength – Graphene is 200 times stronger than steel and so robust that it would, according to Professor James Hone, take an elephant sitting on a the end of a pencil to break through a sheet of graphene no thicker than a piece of clingfilm. The substance is so strong that it is effectively possible to pick up a whole sheet of the material; which means one can grasp at and hold without breaking a sheet of carbon atoms.
  2. No Band Gap – Graphene has no band gap, the difference between a bound and unbound electron. Without a band gap an electron is able to absorb electrons at all frequencies, making the substance ideal for highly efficient photovoltaic solar cells.
  3. Ballistic Conduction – Similar to superconductivity at room temperatures, ballistic conduction occurs when electrons pass through a material unimpeded. The honeycomb lattice of graphene has the largest “mean free path” of any known material.
  4. The highest current density (a million times that of copper).
  5. The highest intrinsic motility (100 times that of silicon).
  6. Conduction in the limit of no electrons (it can carry electricity more efficiently, faster and with more precision than any other material).
  7. Transparency – Graphene absords just 2-3 percent of the light that falls on it, making it perfect for the production of touchscreens. It is however possible to see the material with the naked eye, meaning that when placed on a sheet of white paper it is possible to see a graphene sheet of carbon atoms.
  8. Stretch and stiffness – Graphene has an elasticity that means it can be stretched by 20 percent of its length, yet is also stiffer than diamond.
  9. Thermal conductivity – another record holder. Graphene is the substance with the highest level of thermal conductivity, again beating that of diamond.
  10. Impermeability – Graphene is the most impermeable material on the planet. It is so impermeable that even single atoms of helium cannot pass through it; a quality that makes it ideal for the production of gas detectors.

The role call of accolades and attributes provide a fantastic confirmation of the material’s versatility. Exploring and discovering the qualities of the material make it one of the most anticipated and expectation riddled substances ever. An investment of time and effort in graphene in an investment in its innumerable possibilities.