A Southampton researcher has developed a new transistor made from graphene, the world's thinnest material. This could result in even smarter computerised electronic devices in the future.
"The downscaling of silicon components is reaching its limits and we need to find a suitable alternative," says Dr Zakaria Moktadir, who developed the new transistor. "Other researchers had looked at graphene as a possibility, but found that one of the drawbacks was that graphene's intrinsic physical properties make it difficult to turn off the current flow."
The research involved working at nanoscale (molecular scale) in the Southampton Nanofabrication Centre, which has some of the best nanofabrication facilities in the world.
Graphene is made from a single atomic layer of carbon, arranged in a two-dimensional honeycomb structure. Zakaria discovered that by introducing geometrical singularities (such as sharp bends and corners) in graphene nanowires, the current could be turned off efficiently.
The new transistor achieves a record high-switching performance and could pave the way for graphene to replace, or at least be used side by side with, silicon components.
"This breakthrough will have major implications for next generation computer, communication and electronic systems," says Professor Harvey Rutt, Head of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton. "Introducing geometrical singularities into the graphene channel is a new concept which achieves superior performance while keeping the component structure simple and therefore commercially exploitable."