The foundation for all electronic devices is the semiconductor chip. Made with silicon, the semiconductor chip has been around for over 50 years and powers everything from home appliances to mobile devices. However a team of researchers at IBM are attempting to make the silicon based chip obsolete by producing the first basic semiconductor chip with circuits made from graphene, a form of nanotechnology.
Graphene is a crystalline version of carbon and has the potential to make computer chips smaller, faster and more efficient than silicone based chips. The potential increased performance of these chips could have major implications for computing, particularly as it relates to wireless communications. Graphene based chips could allow mobile devices to transmit data nearly 10,000 times faster, while also using fewer computing resources.
But it was back in 2011 that IBM announced the creation of the first graphene transistor – so what’s the breakthrough? The answer is that while previous attempts at creating graphene transistors were successful, they weren’t sustainable; the problem is that graphene is easily damaged in the manufacturing process and therefore difficult to produce. The innovation that makes this new technology viable now is the successful move from standard back end of line processes to a reverse production: now they’re able to construct the passive components first while adding the delicate, atom-thin graphene at the very end. This preserves the graphene’s integrity, which will in turn allow your electronic devices to work at lightning fast speeds.
Funding for the development of the new chip was provided by Defense Advanced Research Communications Agency.