Monday, February 25, 2019

Graphene Electronics Now One Step Closer

          By Brian Orlotti

European researchers have announced that they have succeeded in carving out graphene to nanoscale dimensions without ruining its electrical properties; a key step towards making practical graphene nano-electronics.

As outlined in the February 19th, 2019 NanoWerk post, "Graphene 'sandwich' key to new electronics," the researchers were operating under the European Union (EU) Graphene Flagship program, a €1 billion EUR ($1.5Bln CDN) initiative launched in 2013 to bring together academic and industrial researchers with a plan to commercialize graphene.

Graphene, first discovered in 2004, is a form of carbon made up of hexagonal atoms that is only a single-atom thick.

Graphene’s unique structure gives it remarkable properties: it is over 100 times stronger than steel, a better electrical conductor than copper, transparent, flexible, and impermeable to most gasses and liquids. Recent research has even shown the possibility of graphene being a room-temperature superconductor, a holy grail of modern science.

Graphene’s properties have led to much hype over the past decade, with promises of a revolution in physics and engineering. However, lack of research and difficulties in mass production have kept its promise unfulfilled.

Scientists have long tried using traditional lithography techniques to produce graphene-based nanoelectronics and photonics. However, since graphene is only one atom thick, all its atoms are exposed to the outside world; even small defects and impurities impede its properties.

Graphene Flagship researchers at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) solved this problem by coating graphene with protective layers of hexagonal boron nitride. The team then used nanolithography to drill nanometre-sized holes into the boron nitride, enabling electrical current to flow through the graphene at 100-1000 times greater rates than previous efforts.

The researchers claim this new technique is a key step towards the building of defect-free graphene nanoelectronic and photonic devices.

The ability to produce defect-free graphene-based devices combined with recent breakthroughs in mass production techniques, may have the next few years finally bring graphene’s promise to life.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

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