Graphene could mark a real revolution in the world of electronics. We will thus witness the decline of silicon in the creation of microchips, as graphene reserves some truly interesting innovations.
The importance of this research according to the researchers lies in the different management of electrons between the usual silicon chips and graphene ones, which we will see in the coming years. In the near future, computers will be able to be much faster and consume less electricity.
Furthermore, there are also new applications offered by graphene which also allows us to use the wave properties of electrons, fundamental for the development of quantum computers.
The idea came about when De Heer and his team figured out how to grow graphene on silicon carbide wafers using special ovens. They then produced epitaxial graphene, which is a single layer that grows on a crystalline face of silicon carbide. When graphene chemically bonded to silicon carbide and began to exhibit semiconductor properties.
It was dealt with by a Sino-American research team, conducted by Georgia Tech, where the material was perfected, in collaboration with colleagues from the International Center for Nanoparticles and Nanosystems at Tianjin University in China. Scientists have discovered that graphene, unlike silicon, is not a semiconductor but begins to behave like one if it is fixed in five overlapping layers.
The results were published in the Nature Science Journal on January 3, 2024, but this study had already been carried out years earlier. In fact, De Heer began exploring carbon-based materials as potential semiconductors early in his career, then moved on to 2D graphene in 2001. Later, in 2014, he founded a center with Lei Ma, director of the center and co-author of the 'item.
Chemical characteristics of graphene
The element in its natural form is a semimetal, that is, neither a semiconductor nor a metal. The operating principle of silicon transistors and electronic components is based on a band gap, i.e. a material that can be turned on and off when an electric field is applied to it. The main question in graphene electronics research was how to turn it on and off so it could work like silicon.
To make a working transistor it is necessary to manipulate the semiconductor material. However, this can damage its properties. So the team placed atoms on graphene that “donate” electrons to the system, called donors, to see if the material was a good conductor. The experiment showed that the material was not damaged and its properties were not altered.
It is a very thin structure, knowing that the molecule is made up of layers of a single carbon atom. Unlike silicon, which still offers a certain resistance to the passage of electrons, graphene in this configuration appears more "smooth" to the passage of electrons .
In this way, overheating of the chips is avoided and it is possible to miniaturize the circuits even further, thus consuming less electricity to make them work and also to cool them. Furthermore, computing capacity could increase exponentially.
Epitaxial graphene could lead to a paradigm shift in the field of electronics, revolutionizing this area with completely new technologies that exploit its unique properties . For example, it will be possible to use the quantum mechanical wave properties of the electrons of the material, a necessary requirement for quantum computing.
In the meantime, the researchers had to learn how to treat the material, how to make it better and better and finally how to measure its properties. This took a long, long time, but it gave results that lead to a real technological revolution.