February 26, 2024

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The first graphene semiconductor for the next generation of computers

The first graphene semiconductor for the next generation of computers

After ten years of effort, researchers in the United States and China have succeeded in creating the first functional semiconductor out of graphene, a form of carbon that could replace silicon in computers in the future.

Semiconductor graphene allows electrons to flow with much less resistance, meaning mobile phone batteries will last longer and computers will operate at higher frequencies without overheating.

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The new device can be manufactured using existing chip production methods, a major advantage for commercial use, its creators reported in the magazine. nature.

Graphene, whose discovery won a Nobel Prize in 2010, is a form of carbon in which all the atoms are arranged in the same plane, connected together in honeycomb-like hexagonal shapes.

Essentially, these are sheets of carbon that are one atom thick.

“It is a very durable material and can withstand high currents without heating up or disintegrating,” he commented press release Walter de Geer of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who led the study.

Epitaxial graphene

Since its discovery in 2004, graphene has been recognized as an excellent material for the production of integrated circuits, but so far all attempts to create a semiconductor from graphene have failed.

The main problem is that graphene lacks what is called a “band gap,” a fundamental property of semiconductors that allows them to switch between “on” and “off” states like a switch.

The solution presented in the new study is “eight” graphene, which is a single-atomic layer of graphene bonded to a silicon carbide surface. This composite material acts as a semiconductor, meaning it allows electric current to flow only under specific conditions.

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The first measurements showed that compared to silicon, the graphene semiconductor offers ten times greater “mobility,” meaning that electrons move with very little resistance.

The difference with silicone “is like driving on a dirt road instead of a highway,” De Heer says. “It's more efficient, doesn't get as hot and allows for higher speeds.”

According to the announcement, it is the first 2D semiconductor that has all the right properties for use in nanoelectronics and outperforms any other experimental 2D semiconductor.

If commercialization of the new semiconductors proves possible, de Heer says, graphene could replace silicon in a new generation of electronics, just as silicon replaced vacuum lamps in the mid-20th century.

He also points out that graphene exhibits properties completely absent from silicon that could be exploited in new technologies. Among other things, it allows exploiting the quantum behavior of electrons, which means it is suitable for future quantum computers.