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May 29, 2024

Semiconductor Breakthrough: First Graphene Transistor Created, Opening Door to Faster, More Efficient Computing

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Jan 5, 2024

Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States and Tianjin University in China have collaboratively created the world’s first graphene semiconductor, a major breakthrough that could transform the computing industry. The new “epigraphene” material successfully operates as a transistor at room temperature, overcoming previous challenges that had prevented functional graphene semiconductors.

Key Highlights

  • Chinese and American scientists created the first graphene semiconductor that functions as a transistor
  • The “epigraphene” material overcomes significant technical barriers that stymied previous attempts
  • Transistors are fundamental building blocks of all modern electronics and computers
  • Graphene’s high electron mobility could enable faster, more power-efficient computing
  • The achievement proves graphene can be viable for use in semiconductor manufacturing

How Transistors Revolutionized Technology

Transistors are tiny switches that process and control electrical signals, forming the basis of all modern electronics. Their development in 1947 revolutionized technology, enabling the creation of smaller, cheaper, more reliable and energy-efficient devices. Integrated circuits packed with billions of microscopic transistors now power our computers, appliances, vehicles and high-tech infrastructure.

Making transistors smaller, faster and more energy efficient has been the key driver behind rapid advances in computing power described by Moore’s Law. However, conventional silicon-based transistors are approaching fundamental physical limits after decades of exponential progress. Alternative materials like graphene have long been touted as potential heirs apparent to silicon.

Era Switching Material Features
Vacuum Tubes Metal, glass Slow, inefficient, large, fragile
Discrete Transistors Germanium, silicon Smaller, cheaper, more reliable than tubes
Integrated Circuits Silicon Miniaturized, mass producible, enabling modern electronics
??? Graphene (?) Faster, more efficient, continues progress described by Moore’s Law

Why Graphene Has Been Difficult to Tame

Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice structure. This two-dimensional material exhibits extremely high electron mobility, meaning it can switch on and off much faster than silicon. In theory, graphene transistors could massively accelerate computing chips while using less energy.

However, multiple technical obstacles have prevented functional graphene transistors until now. Without a band gap, graphene freely conducts electricity at all times like a metal, whereas semiconductors can switch between insulating and conducting states. Opening a band gap to control conductivity requires altering graphene’s pure structure in complex, unpredictable ways. Prior attempts using techniques like chemical doping created too many defects while failing to properly open a band gap.

Chinese & American Researchers Achieve Semiconductor Breakthrough

The collaborative research team combined expertise from both sides to finally crack the code. They grew the graphene layer by layer to tweak its quantum properties at an atomic scale, leveraging a technique refined over a decade by the Tianjin University team under Professor Wang. This yielded the long-sought band gap without compromising electron mobility or creating excessive defects.

They then integrated the tailored “epigraphene” into a semiconductor transistor structure and demonstrated it successfully switching electrical current on and off at room temperature at a competitive scale. This proves graphene electronics can operate at functional capacities needed for integrated circuits.

“It was very exciting to see that all our hard work and perseverance finally paid off,” said Professor Wang. “After trying for so long, it was thrilling when measurements confirmed we created the band gap and that the transistor actually worked.”

Door Opens to Graphene’s Blazing Speeds

Now that the first hurdle has been cleared by creating a working graphene transistor, further rapid development and refinement toward commercialization can proceed. Engineers aim to harness graphene’s superb properties to develop fast, highly efficient computing chips.

Graphene transistors may one day replace silicon complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) transistors that still power virtually all modern computer processors and electronics. Early projections show graphene transistors enabling multiple generational leaps forward in speed, density and energy efficiency extending Moore’s Law progression even further.

What This Means for the Future

Successfully incorporating graphene semiconductors to replace silicon could completely transform computing technology. Faster processing speeds would accelerate everything from scientific research to artificial intelligence applications. More powerful yet efficient mobile device chips could enable significant advancements and ubiquity of smart technology.

However, the researchers caution more work remains to overcome additional challenges around production scaling, defects and reliability before graphene semiconductors could realize widespread practical adoption into commercial integrated circuits. Nonetheless, now having proven graphene can function as a semiconductor transistor, a viable pathway is cleared to reap its long-touted benefits.

The breakthrough represents a major milestone that opens the door to a new generation of high-performance computing hardware. If the promise holds true, the world may have witnessed a pivotal emergence that empowers tremendous innovation throughout the 21st century similar to what silicon transistors enabled in the information age. But for now, the new “epigraphene” material provides a functional beachhead anchoring these soaring hopes to a demonstrable reality.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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