Graphene will be the successor to silicon

The next step in nanoelectronics is to find a material that can successfully replace silicon. Graphene appears to be one of the most promising candidates for this role

Silicon performance limits

We just can’t get that much silicon out anymore. We are slowly depleting their ability to handle the faster and faster computations being done by our electronics and the possibility of miniaturizing the structures built with them. In short, to take our technology even further, we need something that can be smaller and ship faster. This thing could be graphene, about which we recently wrote about the extraordinary properties of regeneration.

Unfortunately, the drawbacks of this concept may be the harm of graphene to humans and the environment, but Walter de Haer, a professor of physics at Georgia Institute of Technology, decided to turn this idea back in favor. De Heer and colleagues have developed a new graphene-based nanoelectronics platform. This technology is compatible with conventional microelectronics production, which is a prerequisite for any viable alternatives to silicon.

Epigraphine-based electronics

More than twenty years ago, de Heer proposed an alternative version of electronics based on epigraphene, a layer of graphene that spontaneously forms over a silicon carbide crystal. It is one of the semiconductors used in the production of high power electronics. The researchers then found that current flowed without resistance along the edge of the epigraphine, and devices built with it could be connected to each other without the use of metal wires. Now, years later, the process has been improved

To create a nanoelectronic platform, the scientists created a modified form of epigraphine on a crystalline silicon carbide substrate. Together with Chinese partners, they produced unique wafers from electronic silicon carbide crystals. The researchers used an electron beam to sculpt graphene nanostructures and solder their edges to silicon carbide wafers. The electrical charges the team observed at the edge of graphene prepared in this way were similar to photons traveling along a fiber-optic cable, which can travel long distances without scattering. Charges moved tens of thousands of nanometers along the edge without dissipating, whereas previous techniques dissipated charge due to defects in the structure beyond about 10 nanometers.

Quasi-molecule and miniaturization

There’s a good chance that scientists have noticed a theoretical quasiparticle in their research thus far. In metals, the electric current is carried by negatively charged electrons, but measurements show that in the new platform, the edge currents were not carried by electrons or by the so-called holes, that is, positive quasiparticles that show the absence of an electron. The currents were carried by an unusual quasiparticle that has no charge or energy, but moves freely. Unique characteristics indicate that he may have been elusive until now Majorana fermion It was predicted by the Italian theoretical physicist Ettore Majorana in 1937.

Thanks to these remarkable discoveries, de Heer said, it may be possible to develop the first graphene-based functional electronics within five to 10 years. These devices will be more miniaturized, and at the same time more efficient than the silicon structures currently in use.

It was clear from the start that graphene could be miniaturized to a much greater extent than silicon – enabling devices that are much smaller, operate at higher speeds and produce much less heat. This means that many more devices can be packed on a single graphene chip than on silicon.


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