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Researchers have created the first functional graphene semiconductor in history

Science and Technology

Researchers have created the first functional graphene semiconductor in history

Using graphene, a single sheet of carbon atoms bound together by the strongest known bonds, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have produced the first functional semiconductor in history.

Their findings coincide with the fact that silicon, the raw material used to make almost all contemporary electronics, is running out due to the demand for ever-smaller and faster computing devices.

Leading a group of scientists from Atlanta, Georgia, and Tianjin, China, Walter de Heer, Regents' Professor of Physics at Georgia Tech, created a graphene semiconductor that can be processed using standard microelectronics techniques, which is essential for any feasible silicon substitute.

The major obstacle that has bedeviled graphene research for decades and led many to believe that graphene electronics would never function was overcome by de Heer and his team in their most recent study, which was published in Nature. This essential electronic feature, known as the "band gap," is what makes semiconductors able to turn on and off. This is the first time that graphene has had a band gap.

Early in his career, De Heer began investigating carbon-based materials as possible semiconductors. In 2001, he switched his focus to two-dimensional graphene research. At that time, he was aware of graphene's potential in electronics.

According to De Heer, their motivation stemmed from the need to incorporate three unique features of graphene into electronics. He continued by saying that graphene is an incredibly resilient material that can withstand very high currents without overheating and disintegrating.

De Heer and his colleagues made significant progress when they discovered a way to use specialized furnaces to grow graphene on silicon carbide wafers.

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