A research team at IBM has made a circuit from graphene, a razor-thin revolutionary material. This marks a significant milestone in the use of graphene in practical devices, which could one day replace many uses of the ubiquitous silicon.
Graphene is essentially a 2-dimensionsed sheet of carbon atom lattice (pictured left). (It’s deemed 2-dimensional because it is only one atom thick, whereas the thickness of most materials are at least several atoms).
It’s potentially more attractive that silicon and other materials because it’s thin (good for nanotechnology), has excellent electrical conductivity (faster than silicon), could be very low cost and widely available once extraction technology advances, and could allow for more control and predictability due to its two dimensional structure.
Previously, researchers had trouble using graphene to essentially replace other materials in the construction of widely-used electrical equipment. What the team at IBM did was use it to create an integrated circuit.
Moreover, it did so “using existing manufacturing techniques, suggesting their designs could be affordable enough to commercialize,” according to MIT’s technology review.
Integrated circuits are widely used in wireless communication. If graphene becomes prevalent in that area, it could become one of the most important materials in technology and potentially rival the dominance of silicon.