Polish team claims leap for wonder material graphene

Apr 08, 2011 by Stanislaw Waszak
Professor Jacek Baranowski of the Institute of Electronic Materials Technology (ITME) in Warsaw poses on April 7, near a laser in the Polish capital. Baranowski 's team says it has discovered a new method to produce entire layers of graphene, a move that should help to propel it out of the lab and into everyday life.

It's billed as the wonder material of the 21st century with the power to revolutionise micro-electronics, and won its pioneers the 2010 Nobel Physics Prize.

Now Polish scientists say they have discovered a new method to produce entire layers of , a move that should help to propel it out of the lab and into everyday life.

Just one atom thick, the novel form of carbon is the world's thinnest and strongest nano-material, almost transparent and able to conduct electricity and heat.

"This is an important step forward on the path to the production of transistors and then integrated circuits made of graphene," Professor Jacek Baranowski of the Institute of Electronic Materials Technology (ITME) in Warsaw told AFP.

Russian-born, British-based researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were honoured with a Nobel last October for their pioneering work.

Graphene would in theory be able to run at faster speeds and cope with higher temperatures than today's classic silicon computer chips.

That would resolve a fast-growing problem facing chip engineers who want to boost power and shrink semiconductor size but without raising temperatures, the bugbear of computing.

Graphene's transparency also means it could potentially be used in touch screens and even , and when mixed with plastics would provide light but super-strong for next-generation satellites, planes and cars.

Electrons can travel relatively huge distances through graphene -- a thousandth of a millimetre is a lot in their world -- without being hampered by which are a problem in the silicon used in 95 percent of .

They also pick up speeds of 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) per second in graphene, some 30 times faster than in silicon.

Graphene is also 200 times tougher than steel.

But the catch so far has been a lack of methods to turn out layers of it, and that is where the work of Baranowski's research team come in.

"The new method is based on using the technique of epitaxy on silicon carbide in a gaseous, pressurised environment," said Baranowski, who also works at the University of Warsaw's experimental physics faculty.

Epitaxy is a technique for growing a micro-thin, honeycomb-shaped lattice of the desired material.

While it is currently possible to produce graphene layers, relatively large ones can only be made on a metal base. That hampers graphene's electronics potential.

Without such a base, current techniques only allow for a maximum layer surface of four square inches (25 square centimetres).

Current methods also fail to produce graphene as uniform as that devised by Baranowski's team, he said.

It is precisely that uniformity that would make graphene more readily usable in the hi-tech sector, he added.

The team's discovery was announced in the most recent edition of the US scientific periodical Nano Letters. It is set to be presented at a conference starting Monday in Bilbao, Spain.

ITME's research was carried out under the wing of the European Science Foundation, which groups 78 organisations in 30 nations.

It is part of a wider project aimed at producing a graphene transistor, along with researchers in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Sweden and Turkey.

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User comments : 14

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Quantum_Conundrum
2.8 / 5 (6) Apr 08, 2011
This should be interesting.

I wonder how powerful computers will REALLY be when all is said and done?

I find, based on density of diamond and the molar mass of carbon, that up to 175 to 177 carbon atoms fit inside a single cubic nanometer in the lattice of a diamond, or roughly 31 carbon atoms, per square nanometer area, in a single layer sheet of graphene. It varies slightly depending on what point you use for your origin for measurement.

I figure it ought to be possible to make transistor gates that are a nanometer wide (5 to 6 atoms wide) and one atom thick.
Kingsix
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
Boy I wonder what kind of leaps this sort of tech will actually bring. What will we be doing in 50 years.

Obviously computers is a huge area for this, but I hope that they create these graphene electrode solar cells I've read about real quick.

Anyone know of studies done on efficiency of graphene solar cells?
JamesThomas
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
What exactly is an "entire layer" that is mentioned at the beginning of the article? How much bigger than the four-square-inches we can do now is it?
daveinqueens
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
graphene will be to the 21st what silicon was to the 20th, it will transform our lives in ways impossible to imagine.
Quantum_Conundrum
3 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2011
What exactly is an "entire layer" that is mentioned at the beginning of the article? How much bigger than the four-square-inches we can do now is it?


Presumably it means, "comparable in size to a silicon wafer".

Which is to say, either, "Big enough," or "as big as it needs to be".

that_guy
5 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2011
I know I'm being petty, but I read the entire article, and read all the reasons that the old way is bad...but I really got absolutely no specifics about how this way is better...

I don't see anything that says how exactly this way is different from the traditional way to synthesize graphene, or how they do larger pieces without a substrate. QC - You are making an assumption where you have no info. Presumably it is comparable in size to some kind of silicon wafer...but there are multiple wafer sizes, and there is no indication that it is as big as currently used commercial wafers.

In summation, I love the concept for this article. But the actual article, I hate.
SSLPro
5 / 5 (1) Apr 08, 2011
This material would be excellent in solid state lighting.
If this could be coupled with OLEDs it would be a grand evolution for lighting.
that_guy
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
This material would be excellent in solid state lighting.
If this could be coupled with OLEDs it would be a grand evolution for lighting.


although I suspect you haven't thought it through...I still find aspects your idea interesting.
Husky
5 / 5 (1) Apr 08, 2011
the article is as thin as a sheet of pure graphene, but how large is the sheet?
SSLPro
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
Regarding the use of Graphene in solid state lighting. The properties of this stuff would seem
to make it better in conductivity and thermal dynamics
then current schemes using various metals
ceramics and silicon components.

Not being a Photonic engineer
I couldn't speak with certainity but this material does hold
promise in this new age of SSL .
bluehigh
1 / 5 (1) Apr 09, 2011
@QC
Reports that IBM have developed the fastest graphene transistor to date also highlight that graphene transistors are most useful in Analog applications.

With the high strength of the material and fast flow of electrons compared to conventional materials there are many applications such as wireless communications and networking that would use the attributes of graphene in passing information to chips at an increased speed.

While there may be many applications that are currently fit for graphene, Lin notes that implementation in PCs is not one that is likely to be used just yet, with a lack of a natural energy gap in natural graphene meaning that the on-off ratio required for digital switching operations won't fit the bill.

Processing analogue signals are where graphenes strength lies for now though according to Lin, where a high on-off ratio is not required.

unrealone1
1 / 5 (1) Apr 09, 2011
Wow il finally be able 2 run Crysis :)
Burnerjack
not rated yet Apr 09, 2011
Have there been confirmations as to environmental issues with graphene?
As much as I am enthusiastic, I would hate to think this could be a problem that dwarfs are issues with plastics.
_ilbud
not rated yet Apr 10, 2011
I don't think dwarves are really much of an issue.

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