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Professor Andre Geim of The School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester

Dr. Kostya Novoselov of The School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester

Graphene-based transistor created by the University of Manchester team
The largest hurdle in semiconductor miniaturization has just been shattered

Using the world’s thinnest material, Graphene, researchers at the University of Manchester have created the world’s smallest transistor. According to Professor Andre Geim and Dr. Kostya Novoselov from The School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester, the new transistors are only one atom thick and less than 50 atoms wide. The development opens the gate to superfast computer chips at sizes not possible before with standard Silicon transistors.

According to the semiconductor industry roadmap, miniaturization of electronics will face its largest challenge in the next twenty years. This is because Silicon based technology will begin to reach its minimum size limit. 

Graphene, a form of carbon that is only one atom thick, may provide a solid alternative for even further miniaturization of electronics as silicon-based technology reaches its limit.

Graphene transistors were originally created two years ago, but at that time they were very “leaky” meaning current could not be turned off to zero. The “leaky” quality of the transistors effectively limited their uses, and rendered them useless for employment in computer chips and electronic circuits. But over the course of the past two years the research team at the University of Manchester was able to overcome this problem, and have created fully-functional and stable Graphene transistors.

Graphene transistors remain stable and conductive even when they are only a few nanometers wide. This is in contrast to all other known materials, including the dominant silicon transistors, which “oxidize, decompose and become unstable at sizes ten times larger.” This is the barrier that current silicon-based technology is approaching and is likely to also be its downfall.

"We have made ribbons only a few nanometers wide and cannot rule out the possibility of confining graphene even further - down to maybe a single ring of carbon atoms," says Professor Geim of the University of Manchester.

Graphene provides a solid alternative to Silicon and according to Geim can lead to even further reductions in size. Geim expects future electronic circuits to possibly be carved out of a single Graphenesheet.  

Dr Leonid Ponomarenko, who is leading this research at The University of Manchester, is optimistic of the technologies’ future.

"The next logical step is true nanometer-sized circuits and this is where graphene can come into play because it remains stable - unlike silicon or other materials - even at these dimensions."

Geim believes that Graphene is the only viable successor to Silicon after the currently dominant technology reaches its limit.  Graphene-based circuits, however, are not likely to be completely ready until 2025.

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RE: What I'm wondering is
By vdig on 3/2/2007 4:53:12 PM , Rating: -1
What I am wondering is what this would mean for all of us "do it yourself" computer builders in the future. Will we be able to really plug in components of our choosing? How will we do it? What tools will we, especially the average builder, use?

In the end, I would expect that future devices using these types of nanometer sized machine parts will be extremely portable, but encased in something we can actually handle. There is no way they could sell such small products in its raw, small form without a shell. Because the nanometer parts will be in a relatively enormous shell for human handling, manufacturers can place additional cooling and performance measures (plug 'n play support, anyone?) in per component shell. In regards to connecting parts for use in computers, I can only hope that the shells of each component can be plugged into each other in a sort of modular, Lego style fashion. Whatever happens, I would hope that the average user will still be able to configure each computer to their specifications.

Now, what would be awesome is plug and play computer clusters. Take one computer unit, plug it into another, and, voila, instant computer cluster.

A guy - "My computer can't run the latest software."
Brother - "I've got a spare graphics component and an extra, old computer I don't need anymore. Try this."
*Guy attaches brother's old component shells to his current computer*
A guy - "Hey, it works quite well now, thanks!"

RE: What I'm wondering is
By fk49 on 3/3/2007 1:44:55 AM , Rating: 2

Silicon makes the tiny transistors INSIDE the chips vdig. Microscopic circuits. That turn on and off. 1 and 0. Chips on processors and video cards already have hundreds of millions of transistors and, generally, increasing the number of transistors increases performance. If we can make smaller transistors, we can squeeze more onto the same chip.

This has nothing to do with form factors or printed circuit board sizes. They're talking about replacing the technology that runs inside of that CPU core, not changing the way people handle chips.

RE: What I'm wondering is
By Spivonious on 3/5/2007 10:25:59 AM , Rating: 2
But I think he was saying that as we can cram more performance onto smaller chips, then why couldn't we put an entire computer onto say a 2 square inch chip? Then you have an interface board of some sort that contains all your I/O interfaces, and you could plug in extra computers into sockets on this board.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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