Researchers predict that silicon chips will reach their maximum shrinking point within the next decade. This has prompted a search for materials to replace silicon as transistors continue to shrink in accordance with Moore's Law, which predicts that the number of transistors on a chip will double every two years. Graphene is one of the materials being considered.
David Goldhaber-Gordon, an assistant professor of physics at Stanford, proposed that graphene could supplement but not replace silicon, helping meet the demand for ever-smaller transistors for faster processing. "People need to realize this is not a promise; this is exploration, and we'll have a high payoff if this is successful," he said.
Dai said graphene could be a useful material for future electronics but does not think it will replace silicon anytime soon. "I would rather say this is motivation at the moment rather than proven fact," he said.
Although researchers, including those in his own group, have shown that carbon nanotubes outperform silicon in speed by a factor of two, the problem is that not all of the tubes, which can have 1-nanometer diameters, are semiconducting, Dai said. "Depending on their structure, some carbon nanotubes are born metallic, and some are born semiconducting," he said. "Metallic nanotubes can never switch off and act like electrical shorts for the device, which is a problem."
On the other hand, Dai's team demonstrated that all of their narrow graphene nanoribbons made from their novel chemical technique are semiconductors. "This is why structure at the atomic scale-in this case, width and edges-matters," he said.
|Contact: Louis Bergeron|