Graphene sheets could trump silicon for small, fast devices
Heat is one major stumbling block to smaller, speedier processors; as heat increases, it becomes harder for electrons to move through most materials. But a novel twist on an age-old material might prove to be the key. Graphite is made of thin layers of interconnected carbon atoms. Four years ago, researchers at the University of Manchester in England tested the electronic properties of a single sheet of this carbon, known as graphene, sparking interest in what may be an entirely new branch of semiconductors. This past April, they built the world’s smallest transistor—one atom thick and 10 atoms wide—with the material. Unlike electrons in silicon, those in graphene can travel unimpeded for long distances. This efficiency, which is up to 100 times that of silicon, allows for ultrafast electronic devices that don’t overheat (collisions cause heat). In addition to transistors, researchers hope to develop graphene wires that would transport electrons from one area of a chip to another much faster than current materials can.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.