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Forget light, carbon is the new silicon

Forget light, carbon is the new silicon

A close up of the graphene sections. Alternatively, an alien vessel about to attack the Enterprise.

I don't know what it is about the run up to Christmas this year, but it seems like every researcher in the world has a new scheme for ultra-fast processors that they're just itching to tell us. The latest plan comes courtesy of Princeton University boffins who have developed a system of putting transistors on a 'graphene' substrate – carbon formed into a honeycomb lattice.

Graphene-based processors promise – you guessed it – massive advantages in performance and power usage over traditional silicon-based chips. The reason we haven't been using it in the past is due to the difficulties in arranging graphene into a layer which is the right size to make chips out of. A standard silicon wafer used in the production of processors is between eight and twelve inches in diameter, and currently they can't get a slab of graphene anywhere near that.

Stephen Chou, professor of electrical engineering, reckons his team has the solution to the problem: put the graphene “only in the active areas of the chip”, which neatly side-steps the whole too-small problem.

The actual process used is described by Chou as being “like printing”, where a special stamp is pressed against a graphite block and then used to transfer layers just a few atoms thick to the wafer on which the transistors will be built. Like potato-printing, but on a teeny-tiny scale and with extremely expensive potatoes.

The researchers think the new technology could rapidly find its way into devices which “require high-power output” such as mobile 'phones. As usual, the sticking point is in scaling the technology to a level at which commercialisation becomes possible.

Do you think the technology holds promise, or will you believe it when you see it? Let us know via the forums.

8 Comments

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UncertainGod 21st December 2007, 13:32 Quote
Doesn't seem scalable to me.
DeXtmL 21st December 2007, 13:37 Quote
Ya, i have see this news yesterday on another site.
Definitely it's a exciting technology, but all i see is that the carbon layer is just a tech lies in the way of transit our currently silicon base chip to future light based one. exactly, it's a interim chip manufacture technology and cannot replace the light driven chip.

So, i don't think it's time for us to forget the light.
Icy EyeG 21st December 2007, 14:50 Quote
Call me crazy, but it would be nice that when this technology becomes mainstream, the chip factories could capture the carbon within the carbon dioxide to use as a raw material...

Maybe, just maybe I'm being too crazy... :o
DXR_13KE 21st December 2007, 20:49 Quote
and considering that they are stamping carbon, this could make chips faster to make and cheaper.....
Robotrix 22nd December 2007, 00:45 Quote
I think optic technology is probably too much of a radical change from what we have today with silicon chips. So from what I know, this carbon solution (by this I mean solution to a problem, not the scientific term) sounds like a nice transition phase to go in between, until engineers finally get the grip of making a CPU out of optics.
Robotrix 22nd December 2007, 01:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robotrix
I think optic technology is probably too much of a radical change from what we have today with silicon chips. So from what I know, this carbon solution (by this I mean solution to a problem, not the scientific term) sounds like a nice transition phase to go in between, until engineers finally get the grip of making a CPU out of optics.
ou7blaze 23rd December 2007, 07:29 Quote
The New Intel Graphite CPU

"Powered by the technology that brought you pencils!"

Amon 24th December 2007, 04:23 Quote
This stuff isn't going to shatter to smithereens when dropped, will it?
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