Researchers are developing a technique with everyone’s favourite wonder material, graphene, that could potentially see Moore’s Law extended by 10 years.
The method involves standing atom thin sheets of graphene on a substrate to make high density walls for use on conventional electronic chips. The same techniques could even be used for ongoing work into spintronics as an alternative to current chip production.
A paper produced by scientists at Rice University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University shows that certain materials such as diamond or nickel can be used to bind strips of graphene nanoribbon.
With the material used in such small quantities to hold the nanoribbons upright, on an atomic scale it is possible for graphene to still exhibit its Nobel prize-winning qualities.
Working with nanoribbons at this size to create field effect transistor, it should be possible to create massive amounts of transistors on a microchip.
With a few billion able to fit on a chip currently, the team are talking up mind boggling numbers.
According to Rice theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson reckons that it will be possible to pack 100 trillion FETs onto a one centimetre square chip.
This would in effect help keep Moore’s Law going by another decade or so.
Yakobson says that he spoke to Moore himself during the infancy of developments into nanotechnology. Apparently Moore saw silicon wafers in terms of real estate, and Yakobson will now, to extend the metaphor, use upright architecture to go from “ranch-style houses in Texas to skyscraper condos in Hong Kong”.
According to the research of Yakobson and his team, which is clearly in a very early stage, the naoribbons would be able to stand easily at a 90-degree angle. As this is its preferred state minimal energy would be required.
The walls could then be grown as a close as 7/10ths of a nanometre, which would mean that graphene properties would remain. This could all be done on a silicon, silicon oxide or other materials.
Two types of nanribbon can be made, of the zigzag or armchair variety. Zigzag are magnetic would be useful as they cause electrons to spin off in opposing directions, an important factor in allowing spin to be measured.
Armchair nanoribbons on the other hand can become semiconductors, and can create a large band gap which is essential for creating transistors.
In both cases, the electronic properties of the walls can be tuned by changing their height.
If all goes to plan with development Yakobson reckons that subnanometre electronics coul be on the cards.