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  • Voltaire Staff

Researchers make 10 times faster semiconductor with graphene

Researchers at Georgia University have created a first functional semiconductor from Graphene, a material which is claimed to turbocharge the electron activity on a chip by 10 times, and stands to, in times to come, revolutionise technologies that depend on the use of semiconductors.

Published in journal Nature, and conducted by Georgia Tech Research Institute, the study revealed that their graphene semiconductor exhibited ten times greater electron mobility than silicon, which translated to lower electrical resistance and faster computing in electronic devices.

As of now, the researchers' two-dimensional semiconductor stands out as the only one possessing all the essential properties for application in nanoelectronics, surpassing the electrical capabilities of other 2D semiconductors in development.

Why graphene?

Professor Walt A de Heer, the corresponding author for the study, embarked on a journey in his early career to explore the potential of carbon-based materials as semiconductors. In 2001, he shifted his focus to 2D graphene, recognising its electronic capabilities. His interest was driven by three unique properties of grapheme -- its extreme durability, ability to handle large currents without overheating, and its structural stability.

The breakthrough occurred when de Heer and his team successfully grew graphene on silicon carbide wafers using specialised furnaces, producing what is known as epitaxial graphene. This single layer of graphene, when grown properly, chemically bonded to the silicon carbide and exhibited semiconducting properties. Over the following decade, the team perfected the material at Georgia Tech and collaborated with researchers at Tianjin University in China.

'Graphene semiconductor is future'

The challenge in graphene electronics research lay in enabling graphene to switch on and off like conventional semiconductors. To measure the electronic properties of their graphene semiconductor without causing damage, the team employed a technique called doping. This involved introducing atoms to the graphene that "donated" electrons, allowing them to assess the material's conductivity without impairing its properties.

De Heer said that with grapheme, not only can you make things smaller and faster and with less heat dissipation, but one can use properties of electrons that are not accessible in Silicon, as he termed graphene the next step in the evolutionary history of electronics, following vacuum tubes and silicon, which earlier revolutionised the field.

Walt de Heer, Regents’ Professor of Physics at Georgia Institute of technology, in a video, said, "We got kind of lulled into thinking that silicon is the end all of electronics, it's not, it's the beginning."

He added, "So this is really a paradigm shift, it's a different way of doing Electronics so we don't really know where this ultimately is going to end but we know we're opening a door in a major paradigm shift in doing electronics. Graphene is the next step who knows what the step's going to be after that but there's a good chance that graphene can take over and be the paradigm for the next 50 years…"

So, why graphene has not taken off yet?

Despite the gush, graphene has not always been viewed uniformly by scientists, despite its remarkable properties.

According to Verge Science, while graphene holds immense potential, its widespread adoption and dominance in various industries have been hindered by several challenges.

One significant obstacle is the complexity of large-scale production methods. The processes involved in manufacturing high-quality graphene on an industrial scale are intricate and often expensive, posing barriers to mass production.

Additionally, integrating graphene into existing technologies and infrastructure requires overcoming compatibility issues, as industries are geared towards materials like silicon.


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