Researchers from IBM have just built the very first integrated circuit based on graphene. This is a breakthrough for IBM who has stated that this circuit could very well herald a future based on graphene wafers as opposed to silicon ones.
The circuit, which is a 10-gigahertz frequency mixer, could very well give wireless devices greater range. With higher frequencies, the technology could allow law enforcement officials as well as medical personnel to see inside objects or even people without any harmful effects like the ones found in X-ray devices.
The new graphene circuit is a broadband radio-frequency mixer that, according to IEEE Spectrum, is a crucial component of radios. It creates new radio signals by finding the sum and difference between two input frequencies. The circuit created by IBM was able to perform frequency mixing up to 10 GHz and worked well up to 257 degrees Fahrenheit.
IBM’s research team believes that the circuit could go even faster. If that is true, circuits like this could help improve cell phone and transceiver signals and even allow phones to work in areas where they can not currently receive service.
Multiple teams have been hard at work on graphene transistors as well as receivers, however, it has been difficult to join the single-carbon-atom sheets to the metals and alloys used on the chips. This circuit also uses aluminum, gold and palladium which do not adhere to graphene easily. In addition to that, graphene can be easily damaged during the etching process.
The team at IBM discovered a new method that clears those obstacles by growing graphene on the silicon face of the silicon-carbide wafer. After that, they coated the graphene in a polymer, conducted the necessary etching and removed the polymer using acetone. The grates on the transistor are only 550 nanometers long with the entire wafer being the size of a grain of salt.
It will still be some time before graphene FET chips start taking over Silicon Valley though. The team at IBM has already come up with a few ideas for improving next-generation designs that include the use of different metals that do not degrade the incredible electrical conductivity of graphene.
Source: Fox News – First Graphene-Based Computer Chip May Shake Up Silicon Valley