Semiconducting graphene spin-off to power future computers

Scientists have come closer to creating electronic devices using that wonder material graphene, modifying it to become a semiconductor.

It is thought over the coming years graphene could eventually replace silicon in computer chips.   However, various problems have to be overcome before that is truly a possibilty.

One of these problems has been that graphene related materials have existed only as conductors or insulators, rather than semiconductors like silicon.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee reckon that they have found a potential solution to this problem with a material related to graphene.

The researchers modified graphene to create graphene monoxide (GMO), synthesised from graphene.

Unlike graphene it is a lot easier to scale up the conductive properties of GMO, and like silicon it exhibits semiconducting qualities necessary in computing.

The team created GMO while looking at graphene-based carbon nanotubes, mixing them with tin oxide nanoparticles to create a hybrid material for use in cheap sensors.

Findings prompted them to make graphene out of graphene oxide (GO), a cheaply produced insulator that exhibits much of the same qualities as graphene.

An experiment with GMO in a vacuum to reduce oxygen unexpectedly aligned the carbon and oxygen atoms rather than destroying them.  

The team had thought that the experiment would get rid of the oxygen atoms but instead this ordered the atoms into GMO, a semiconducting material that does not exist in nature.

But while the team points out that GMO works well at a small scale in lab conditions, the next step is to find out whether it will work at an industrial level.