Graphene could be used for the next generation of faster, more energy-efficient electronics.
According to engineers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they have developed “a way to grow graphene nanoribbons with desirable semiconducting properties directly on a conventional germanium semiconductor wafer.” This discovery could allow manufacturers to “easily use graphene nanoribbons in hybrid integrated circuits, which can significantly boost the performance of next-generation electronics.”
According to Phys.org, to exploit graphene’s electronic properties in semiconductor applications where current must be switched on and off, graphene nanoribbons need to be less than 10 nanometers wide, which is very narrow. The nanoribbons must have smooth, well-defined “armchair” edges in which the carbon-carbon bonds are parallel to the length of the ribbon.
“Researchers have typically fabricated nanoribbons by using lithographic techniques to cut larger sheets of graphene into ribbons. However, this ‘top-down’ fabrication approach lacks precision and produces nanoribbons with very rough edges. Another strategy for making nanoribbons is to use a “bottom-up” approach such as surface-assisted organic synthesis, where molecular precursors react on a surface to polymerize nanoribbons,” according to Phys.org.
Michael Arnold, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at UW-Madison, discusses the approach in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.
“Graphene nanoribbons that can be grown directly on the surface of a semiconductor like germanium are more compatible with planar processing that’s used in the semiconductor industry, and so there would be less of a barrier to integrating these really excellent materials into electronics in the future,” Arnold said.
The new technique can be scaled for mass production and is compatible with the current infrastructure used in semiconductor processing. It could also have a purpose in industrial and military applications, such as sensors that detect specific chemical and biological species and photonic devices that manipulate light.
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