COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Engineers at Ohio State University are developing a technique for mass producing computer chips made from the same material found in pencils.
Experts believe that graphene -- the sheet-like form of carbon found in graphite pencils -- holds the key to smaller, faster electronics. It might also deliver quantum mechanical effects that could enable new kinds of electronics.
Until now, most researchers could only create tiny graphene devices one at a time, and only on traditional silicon oxide substrates. They couldn't control where they placed the devices on the substrate, and had to connect them to other electronics one at a time for testing.
In a paper published in the March 26 issue of the journal Advanced Materials, Nitin Padture and his colleagues describe a technique for stamping many graphene sheets onto a substrate at once, in precise locations.
"We designed the technique to mesh with standard chip-making practices," said Padture, College of Engineering Distinguished Professor in Materials Science and Engineering.
"Graphene has huge potential -- it's been dubbed 'the new silicon,'" said Padture, who is also director of Ohio State's Center for Emergent Materials. "But there hasn't been a good process for high-throughput manufacturing it into chips. The industry has several decades of chip-making technology that we can tap into, if only we could create millions of these graphene structures in precise patterns on predetermined locations, repeatedly. This result is a proof-of-concept that we should be able to do just that."
Graphene is made of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern resembling chicken wire. In graphite, many flat graphene sheets are stacked together.
"When you write with a pencil, you leave graphene sheets behind on the paper," Padture said.
Each sheet is so thin -- a few tenths of a nanometer (billionths of a meter) -- that researchers think of it
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Ohio State University