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Making Graphene Work For Real-World Devices

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the more-better-faster-lighter-cheaper dept.

Science 18

aarondubrow writes: "Graphene, a one-atom-thick form of the carbon material graphite, is strong, light, nearly transparent and an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, but a number of practical challenges must be overcome before it can emerge as a replacement for silicon in electronics or energy devices. One particular challenge concerns the question of how graphene diffuses heat, in the form of phonons. Thermal conductivity is critical in electronics, especially as components shrink to the nanoscale. Using the Stampede supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Professor Li Shi simulated how phonons (heat-carrying vibrations in solids) scatter as a function of the thickness of the graphene layers. He also investigated how graphene interacts with substrate materials and how phonon scattering can be controlled. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Applied Physical Letters and Energy and Environmental Science."

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Send Elon Musk (1, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 6 months ago | (#46846901)

but a number of practical challenges must be overcome before it can emerge as a replacement for silicon in electronics or energy devices.

Elon Musk will fix that before he's had his breakfast.

Re: Send Elon Musk (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46846925)

You mean the guy who makes cars that catch on fire? How about no.

Re: Send Elon Musk (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about 6 months ago | (#46846959)

No, not Enzo Ferrari, Elon Musk.

Re: Send Elon Musk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46846997)

I thought he meant Eloi musk and the one eating breakfast was a Morlock.

Re: Send Elon Musk (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 6 months ago | (#46846999)

Shun the unbeliever! Shuuun! Shuuuun!

Why not just... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46846911)

I may not be an expert, but, wouldn't it be easier to try and create an electronic device using graphene instead of silicon and to see what would happen right away? Am I missing something here? Or is it not yet possible to create a graphene chip?

No bandgap (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46847041)

Graphene - unlike silicon doesn't have a bandgap so the current in graphene can't be switched off. That leads to a poor transistor design.

Re:Why not just... (4, Informative)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 6 months ago | (#46847069)

Aside from the bandgap issue (which does have workarounds), you basically guessed correctly. It's really damn hard to make a large sheet of graphene that will stick to a substrate properly, won't spontaneously fold into a nanotube, and doesn't have faults in the crystal structure.

It's actually pretty amazing, in comparison, what we've been able to do with silicon. We can produce chips with areas measured in square centimeters that are _perfect_ crystals all the way through. No impurities (except what we add), no faults in the crystal structure, just countless trillions of silicon atoms all in the correct place. And then we can pattern this silicon with multiple layers of intricate patterns with nanometer precision. And we can do this on an industrial scale to result in a chip that you buy for a hundred bucks.

Re:Why not just... (1)

namgge (777284) | about 6 months ago | (#46847087)

Another advantage that silicon has is that its oxide is also easily formed and controlled in process and is an excellent electrical insulator.

Re:Why not just... (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 6 months ago | (#46847669)

We've also been working with silicon for 60 years.

Re:Why not just... (4, Informative)

Megol (3135005) | about 6 months ago | (#46847285)

Silicon is an amazing material. It it cheap, plentiful, can be purified extremely well, are a natural semiconductor that can be doped easily, have a band-gap that makes creating transistors of many types easy, can be selectively oxidized and etched with high precision. There are many good reasons why computer chips are using silicon rather than other materials that may be faster (GaAs, InP etc.) as those are harder to work with in several ways including purity of the crystal, strength of substrate etc.

While graphene have certain advantages and are still researched intensively it also have a lot of problems. The making of graphene films have been made easier by different methods but they still can't be manufactured in bulk at a low price (unless I've missed something). It is also much harder to make transistors using it due to the bandgap issue. Processing of graphene is also not as developed as that of silicon and it isn't just a matter of process maturity (while that of course is one large reason) - silicon is simply easy to make things out of.

If graphene will ever be used in mass produced products it will most likely be in the form of graphene integrated on silicon wafers for conductors or other parts.

Re:Why not just... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46847435)

I just wanted to thank everyone on all the answers! I've been hearing a tonne about graphene these past few years and for every piece of news that says 'it can't be done' there is an equal amount of 'it can be done' and one can get easily confused haha

an industiral scale application of graphene (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46847231)

using stacked layers of grephene we can produce a novel writing instrument that can work in space!
the best part - with current technologies, industrial scale production is already within reach.
this is the graphene revolution we've been waiting for!

Re:an industiral scale application of graphene (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 6 months ago | (#46847445)

The revolutionary Ticonderoga word processing system with built-in deletion module!

waw (0)

devis47 (3632279) | about 6 months ago | (#46847321)

nice article, thank u but i kinda confused about it [blogspot.com] should it can be combine with other material for making monomolecul things r not..

nanotechnologists (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 6 months ago | (#46847499)

The problem many nanotechnologists have (and I'm one of them) is that they believe if they can only show the right lab measurement, then the rest of the world will come calling and "they" will solve the commercialization problems related to their technology.

The real truth is that no number of studies like this will get graphene any closer to "real world devices." No one is going to solve the fundamental problems of manufacturing process development and material reproducibility for us. Neat lab tricks on "hero devices" aren't going to do it.

Light and nearly transparent (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#46847613)

Graphene, a one-atom-thick form of the carbon material graphite, is strong, light, nearly transparent and an excellent conductor of electricity and heat

Wouldn't those two be attributes of a one-atom-thick form of anything?

I mean, you say it's light, but so is anything if you have little enough of it. Atom-for-atom it weighs the same as diamond.

Re:Light and nearly transparent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46849457)

well I would say atom for atom carbon is quite light....think polymers, plastics, etc....versus silicon (more than twice the weight per atom) or metals (besides Li/Be)

and yes, one atom thick layers of things are generally quite transparent, if not just partially transparent.

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