Graphene is a silicon contender

Graphene has the potential to replace silicon in transistors but it’s a long way off.

“It is possible that this could replace silicon, there’s been a lot of hype about Graphene,” a professor researching the applications of Graphene told us.

Nobel Prize winning Graphene has been hotly tipped to be the next major breakthrough for electrics and semiconductors with companies such as  IBM making the claim. It announced a transistor made of an atom-thick layer of carbon atoms, which promised frequencies of 100 billion cycles per second.

IBM said at the time that the frequency performance of the graphene device exceeded the cut off frequency of silicon transistors of the same gate length.

Researchers agree that Graphene could one day trump silicon for certain applications. Dr Karl Coleman, reader in the Department of Chemistry at Durham University, told TechEye: “Graphene has the potential to take over from Silicon, mainly because of the potential speeds that it can switch operate. The transition speeds can switch to hundreds of gigahertz and it potentially has the power to go to terahertz.

“This means it will enable ultrafast switching for devices, the faster you can switch the better.” Coleman said Silicon is flawed in this respect as it can only switch at low gigahertz.

Although this technology is exceeding silicon in terms of fabrication, there is still a long way to go.

“The potential is there and switching is the real benefit. It’s a race at the moment to see how fast this technology can go but it’s important to note this isn’t yet a like for like replacement to silicon,” he added.

Professor Simon Bending, a researcher at the Centre for Graphene Science at Exeter University told us: “It is possible that this could replace silicon. However, there are still a few issues with the technology, notably that it’s a metal so there’s no bandgap, which means it can’t be switched on and off. However we are always using modifications to get around this.”

Graphene is conventionally a one-atom-thick honeycomb crystal lattice material, which has many properties, including the ability to serve as a superconductor, and other properties ideal for transistors.