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Graphene: will it replace silicon ?

Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim of the University Of Manchester have won a Nobel for their creation of Graphene. This project first became public in 2004 when they were able to demonstrate electronic effects with ultra thin sheets of carbon that they created by “mechanical exfoliation … of small mesas of highly oriented pyrolytic graphite.”

Graphene is one of the most exciting new compounds as it can be used in so many ways. To hear that it started with a strip of Scotch tape is fascinating.

This image of a carbon nanotube made from graphene was created using a scanning tunneling microscope. The reddish objects are individual carbon atoms, with dark hexagonal holes between atoms.

Atom for Atom, graphene has developed into something 100 times stronger than steel, primarily because the single layered atoms are bonded together in a honeycomb lattice structure. A one thick sheet is not that tough, however when they are combined into composites the end product could be many times stronger than even Kevlar. The possibility of using this material for light weight body armor or for vehicle chassis is staggering.

On a technological level, the graphene sheets can be made thin enough to be used in laptop and television screens. Researchers have said that they have already created a working touch screen display using graphene.

It may be some time before silicon would be under threat however electricity flows easily through graphene without losing much energy en route. Scientists are currently working to incorporate it with other elements which would pave the way for ultra thin, ultra fast circuitry. IBM have already demonstrated a graphene based transistor which operates 10 times faster than the fastest silicon chip. If Moore’s Law is to continue then we will certainly need to be looking outside the realms of silicon.

After scooping the £1 million Nobel prize money Geim told Reuters “I would compare this situation with the one 100 years ago when people discovered polymers. It took quite some time before polymers went into use in plastics and became so important in our lives.”

KitGuru says: Graphene is a fascinating new technology and we urge you to read the detailed technical paper over here.

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