The graphene switch
Studies presented this spring at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference estimate that Moore’s Law — the observation that the number of transistors on a square inch of integrated circuits doubles every two years — will continue to hold true until transistor size reaches seven nanometers. At the current rate of size reduction, this means that around 2018, the material boundaries of silicon might be met. Further reductions in transistor size will become difficult without alternative manufacturing methods.
That’s why graphene, a one-atom-thick layer of crystalized carbon, holds so much promise. So far, it is the heir apparent for integrated circuit design — its material properties could allow for even smaller, more powerful transistor design. While the inability to control polarity in graphene has limited its applications, research conducted by associate professor of materials science and engineering Lane Martin has demonstrated a way to manipulate the polarity of graphene (essentially emulating the devices in silicon that make up our computers today) by controlling the nature of its electrons. The research, published in Nature Communications, was done in partnership with material scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.