Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New material could lead to faster chips

25.03.2009
Graphene may solve communications speed limit

New research findings at MIT could lead to microchips that operate at much higher speeds than is possible with today's standard silicon chips, leading to cell phones and other communications systems that can transmit data much faster.

The key to the superfast chips is the use of a material called graphene, a form of pure carbon that was first identified in 2004. Researchers at other institutions have already used the one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms to make prototype transistors and other simple devices, but the latest MIT results could open up a range of new applications.

The MIT researchers built an experimental graphene chip known as a frequency multiplier, meaning it is capable of taking an incoming electrical signal of a certain frequency — for example, the clock speed that determines how fast a computer chip can carry out its computations — and producing an output signal that is a multiple of that frequency. In this case, the MIT graphene chip can double the frequency of an electromagnetic signal.

Frequency multipliers are widely used in radio communications and other applications. But existing systems require multiple components, produce "noisy" signals that require filtering and consume large power, whereas the new graphene system has just a single transistor and produces, in a highly efficient manner, a clean output that needs no filtering.

The findings are being reported in a paper in the May issue of Electron Device Letters and were also reported last week at the American Physical Society meeting by Tomás Palacios, assistant professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a core member of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories. The work was done by Palacios along with EECS Assistant Professor Jing Kong and two of their students, Han Wang and Daniel Nezich.

"In electronics, we're always trying to increase the frequency," Palacios says, in order to make "faster and faster computers" and cellphones that can send data at higher rates, for example. "It's very difficult to generate high frequencies above 4 or 5 gigahertz," he says, but the new graphene technology could lead to practical systems in the 500 to 1,000 gigahertz range.

"Researchers have been trying to find uses for this material since its discovery in 2004," he says. "I believe this application will have tremendous implications in high-frequency communications and electronics." By running several of the frequency-doubling chips in series, it should be possible to attain frequencies many times higher than are now feasible.

While the work is still at the laboratory stage, Palacios says, because it is mostly based on relatively standard chip processing technology he thinks developing it to a stage that could become a commercial product "may take a year of work, maximum two." This project is currently being partially funded by the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology and by the Interconnect Focus Center program, and it has already attracted the interest of "many other offices in the federal government and major chip-making companies," according to Palacios.

Graphene is related to the better-known buckyballs and carbon nanotubes, which also are made of one-atom-thick sheets of carbon. But in those materials, the carbon sheets are rolled up in the form of a tube or a ball. While physicists had long speculated that flat sheets of the material should be theoretically possible, some had doubted that it could ever remain stable in the real world.

"In physics today, graphene is, arguably, the most exciting topic," Palacios says. It is the strongest material ever discovered, and also has a number of unsurpassed electrical properties, such as "mobility" — the ease with which electrons can start moving in the material, key to use in electronics — which is 100 times that of silicon, the standard material of computer chips.

One key factor in enabling widespread use of graphene will be perfecting methods for making the material in sufficient quantity. The material was first identified, and most of the early work was based on, using "sticky tape technology," Palacios explains. That involves taking a block of graphite, pressing a piece of sticky tape against it, peeling it off and then applying the tape to a wafer of silicon or other material.

But Kong has been developing a method for growing entire wafers of graphene directly, which could make the material practical for electronics. Kong and Palacios' groups are currently working to transfer the frequency multipliers to these new graphene wafers.

"Graphene will play a key role in future of electronics," Palacios says. "We just need to identify the right devices to take full advantage of its outstanding properties. Frequency multipliers could be one of these devices."

Elizabeth Thomson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star
23.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie

nachricht Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology
22.08.2017 | Université libre de Bruxelles

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>