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Graphene Electronic Properties Configured for Computer Chips

Graphene molecular illustration (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

Graphene molecular illustration (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

A team of physicists from the U.K., Russia, and Japan has proposed a method for using the light weight and conductivity of graphene in computer chips. The researchers, including Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov at University of Manchester in the U.K. who won the Nobel Prize in 2010 for their discovery of graphene, published their findings online in the journal Nature Physics (paid subscription required).

Graphene is a material configured as a layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, with unusual qualities of strength and conductivity which make it a versatile ingredient for a range of potential electronics, communications, and industrial products. Generic graphene, however, was not stable enough for direct use in electronics, which the team’s research addresses.

The physicists, led by Manchester’s Leonid Ponomarenko sandwiched two layers of graphene between boron nitride. This layered architecture, which they dubbed Big Mac, let them observe graphene isolated from outside influences.

Ponomarenko says that this configuration made it possible for the team to “control graphene’s electronic properties in a way it was impossible before.” Among the new properties of graphene shown in the Big Mac was that of an insulator. Graphene before had not been considered an insulator unless it was deliberately damaged.

Geim adds that “graphene encapsulated within boron nitride offers the best and most advanced platform for future graphene electronics. It solves several nasty issues about graphene’s stability and quality that were hanging for long time as dark clouds over the future road for graphene electronics.”

The team’s discovery will find new resources available to help take the technology to market. Last week, George Osborne, the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced a £50 milion ($US 79 million) fund to support a new Graphene Global Research and Technology Hub at Manchester to commercialize graphene applications.

Read more: Nanotech-Enhanced Graphene Can Propel Optical Communications

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