Bypassing decades-old conventions in making computer chips, Princeton engineers developed a novel way to replace silicon with carbon on large surfaces, clearing the way for new generations of faster, more powerful cell phones, computers and other electronics.
The electronics industry has pushed the capabilities of silicon -- the material at the heart of all computer chips -- to its limit, and one intriguing replacement has been carbon, said Stephen Chou, professor of electrical engineering. A material called graphene -- a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice -- could allow electronics to process information and produce radio transmissions 10 times better than silicon-based devices.
Until now, however, switching from silicon to carbon has not been possible because technologists believed they needed graphene material in the same form as the silicon used to make chips: a single crystal of material eight or 12-inches wide. The largest single-crystal graphene sheets made to date have been no wider than a couple millimeters, not big enough for a single chip. Chou and researchers in his lab realized that a big graphene wafer is not necessary, as long they could place small crystals of graphene only in the active areas of the chip. They developed a novel method to achieve this goal and demonstrated it by making high-performance working graphene transistors.
Our approach is to completely abandon the classical methods that industry has been using for silicon integrated circuits, Chou said.
Chou, along with graduate student Xiaogan Liang and materials engineer Zengli Fu, published their findings in the December 2007 issue of Nano Letters, a leading journal in the field. The research was funded in part by the Office of Naval Research.
In their new method, the researchers make a special stamp consisting of an array of tiny flat-topped pillars, each one-tenth of a millimeter wide. They press the p
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Princeton University, Engineering School