Graphene used to create world's smallest transistor

April 17, 2008

Researchers have used the world's thinnest material to create the world's smallest transistor, one atom thick and ten atoms wide.

Reporting their peer-reviewed findings in the latest issue of the journal Science, Dr Kostya Novoselov and Professor Andre Geim from The School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester show that graphene can be carved into tiny electronic circuits with individual transistors having a size not much larger than that of a molecule.

The smaller the size of their transistors the better they perform, say the Manchester researchers.

In recent decades, manufacturers have crammed more and more components onto integrated circuits. As a result, the number of transistors and the power of these circuits have roughly doubled every two years. This has become known as Moore's Law.

But the speed of cramming is now noticeably decreasing, and further miniaturisation of electronics is to experience its most fundamental challenge in the next 10 to 20 years, according to the semiconductor industry roadmap.

At the heart of the problem is the poor stability of materials if shaped in elements smaller than 10 nanometres (1) in size. At this spatial scale, all semiconductors -- including silicon -- oxidise, decompose and uncontrollably migrate along surfaces like water droplets on a hot plate.

Four years ago, Geim and his colleagues discovered graphene, the first known one-atom-thick material which can be viewed as a plane of atoms pulled out from graphite. Graphene has rapidly become the hottest topic in physics and materials science.

Now the Manchester team has shown that it is possible to carve out nanometre-scale transistors from a single graphene crystal. Unlike all other known materials, graphene remains highly stable and conductive even when it is cut into devices one nanometre wide.

Graphene transistors start showing advantages and good performance at sizes below 10 nanometres - the miniaturization limit at which the Silicon technology is predicted to fail.

"Previously, researchers tried to use large molecules as individual transistors to create a new kind of electronic circuits. It is like a bit of chemistry added to computer engineering", says Novoselov. "Now one can think of designer molecules acting as transistors connected into designer computer architecture on the basis of the same material (graphene), and use the same fabrication approach that is currently used by semiconductor industry".

"It is too early to promise graphene supercomputers," adds Geim. "In our work, we relied on chance when making such small transistors. Unfortunately, no existing technology allows the cutting materials with true nanometre precision. But this is exactly the same challenge that all post-silicon electronics has to face. At least we now have a material that can meet such a challenge."

"Graphene is an exciting new material with unusual properties that are promising for nanoelectronics", comments Bob Westervelt, professor at Harvard University. "The future should be very interesting".
-end-
Notes to editors

(1) One nanometre is one-millionth of a millimetre and a single human hair is around 100,000 nanometres in width.

A paper entitled "Chaotic Dirac Billiard in Graphene Quantum Dots" is published in April 17 issue of Science. It is accompanied by a Perspective article entitled "Graphene Nanoelectronics" by Westervelt. Copies of both are available on request.

University of Manchester

Related Graphene Articles from Brightsurf:

How to stack graphene up to four layers
IBS research team reports a novel method to grow multi-layered, single-crystalline graphene with a selected stacking order in a wafer scale.

Graphene-Adsorbate van der Waals bonding memory inspires 'smart' graphene sensors
Electric field modulation of the graphene-adsorbate interaction induces unique van der Waals (vdW) bonding which were previously assumed to be randomized by thermal energy after the electric field is turned off.

Graphene: It is all about the toppings
The way graphene interacts with other materials depends on how these materials are brought into contact with the graphene.

Discovery of graphene switch
Researchers at Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) successfully developed the special in-situ transmission electron microscope technique to measure the current-voltage curve of graphene nanoribbon (GNR) with observing the edge structure and found that the electrical conductance of narrow GNRs with a zigzag edge structure abruptly increased above the critical bias voltage, indicating that which they are expected to be applied to switching devices, which are the smallest in the world.

New 'brick' for nanotechnology: Graphene Nanomesh
Researchers at Japan advanced institute of science and technology (JAIST) successfully fabricated suspended graphene nanomesh (GNM) by using the focused helium ion beam technology.

Flatter graphene, faster electrons
Scientists from the Swiss Nanoscience Institute and the Department of Physics at the University of Basel developed a technique to flatten corrugations in graphene layers.

Graphene Flagship publishes handbook of graphene manufacturing
The EU-funded research project Graphene Flagship has published a comprehensive guide explaining how to produce and process graphene and related materials (GRMs).

How to induce magnetism in graphene
Graphene, a two-dimensional structure made of carbon, is a material with excellent mechani-cal, electronic and optical properties.

Graphene: The more you bend it, the softer it gets
New research by engineers at the University of Illinois combines atomic-scale experimentation with computer modeling to determine how much energy it takes to bend multilayer graphene -- a question that has eluded scientists since graphene was first isolated.

How do you know it's perfect graphene?
Scientists at the US Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory have discovered an indicator that reliably demonstrates a sample's high quality, and it was one that was hiding in plain sight for decades.

Read More: Graphene News and Graphene Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.