Computer processors may soon have one fundamental aspect in common with their owners – a structure composed largely of carbon, rather than silicon.
Graphene, carbon arranged in atom-thick sheets, is already known to be an excellent conductor, but electronics requires the ability to insulate too, as well as electrical properties in between those two extremes.
Now research has shown that the material can be easily modified to act as an insulator, paving the way for efficient all-carbon electronics (see our feature What happens when silicon can shrink no more?).
The semiconductor industry exploits the “whole periodic table” to manufacture its components, says Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester, UK. “But what if a single material is modified so that it covers the entire spectrum needed for electronics?” Graphene could be that material, he says.
Using a single material could simplify construction and allow near-seamless interconnections between conductors and semiconductors – currently as much of a headache for the chip manufacturers as the need to constantly shrink transistors. …