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Graphene Nanoribbon Creates Super-Fast Electronics


Graphene is appearing in the news with a high degree of regulatory. Discovered in 2004, graphene is a variant of carbon. The material is just one atom thick, very light, strong, near transparent and an effective conductor of electricity.

It is thought that the Nobel-prize winning material can herald next generation electronic devices. However, researchers have struggled to slice the material thin enough to be effective. By efficiently and repeatedly making nanoribbons of graphene, this could enable the use of graphene in high-performance semiconductor electronics. ‘Semiconductor’ describes a material with ability of electrical conductivity rating that falls between that of a conductor, such as copper, and an insulator, such as glass. Semiconductors are the basis of all modern electronic devices and their properties are based on the ability to switch the current running through them on and off.

Graphene Nanoribbons

Graphene nanoribbons grown on germanium automatically align perpendicularly and naturally grow in what is known as the armchair edge configuration.
(Image Credits: Arnold Research Group / Guisinger Research Group)

Researchers have come up with an answer to the nanoribbon conundrum. The solution is to grow thin slices of graphene directly onto the surface of a semiconductor fashioned from germanium (a lustrous, hard, grayish-white metalloid in the carbon group.)

The process is referred to as “assisted organic synthesis”. Here molecular precursors react on a surface, like germanium, in order to polymerize nanoribbons of graphene, through a technique called chemical vapor deposition. With this technique the process begins with methane, which function is to absorb the germanium surface and then decomposes to form various hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons react with each other on the surface and eventually form graphene.

These nanoribbons are ultra-fine, being less than 10 nanometers thick. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter in length. Thus the sizes of the nanoribbons required for next-gen electronics are incredibly small.

The research has been conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The experiments have been reported to the journal Nature Communications. The research is headed “Direct oriented growth of armchair graphene nanoribbons on germanium.”

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.