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Blistering fast graphene transistors may replace silicon

Silicon could be on the way out with graphene taking its place in semiconductors.

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Graphene is hot. The recent Nobel Prize-winning research into graphene is just the tip of the iceberg; researchers around the world have been looking at ways to take advantage of graphene's structural and electrical properties. Not only is graphene the strongest material known to man, but it is has lots of potential for use in electrical devices, it's so capable that it could eventually replace silicon transistors.

Graphene, a one-atom-thick honeycomb crystal lattice material, has a multitude of properties such as its ability to serve as a superconductor, and other properties ideal for transistors. While ultra-fast ballistic graphene transistors have already been made that can top out silicon, graphene transistors have recently been made to switch between three different modes of operation; this is known as ambipolarity.

Traditionally, silicon transistors can only operate in one mode, so chips require three times as many to do the same work as a graphene transistors. Graphene transistors were designed and tested by Kartik Mohanram, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University, and Alexander Balandin, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Riverside. These transistors can be fashioned to create logic circuits capable of speeds far greater than silicon; so far researchers have tested graphene transistors that operate at 10 times faster than the fastest silicon transistors.

With material scientists and engineers working around the clock at universities, Intel, IBM, and other companies and institutions, it's no doubt that better materials will someday soon replace silicon. With silicon being an expensive metalloid, graphene may someday replace it as a cheaper, and far greater transistor with speeds capable of 10,000 times that of silicon. Currently, producing graphene in large and pure quantities is a bit of a challenge, but it's only around the corner.


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