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'Molecular graphene' promises light-speed electronics

'Molecular graphene' promises light-speed electronics

The team's research, inspired by graphene, has resulted in a new material through which electrons travel as if in a vacuum.

Engineers from Stanford's Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, inspired by wonder-material graphene, have created a new material dubbed 'molecular graphene' which promises to revolutionise the world of electronics by creating mass-free light-speed electrons.

Carbon allotrope graphene, relatively unknown prior to experiments carried out by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester which saw the pair awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics, is a sheet of carbon atoms just one atom thick. Each carbon atom is joined in a honeycomb lattice, and since its original description by Hans-Peter Boehm in 1962 it's been offering engineers some tantalising technological leaps.

Back in 2007, Princeton engineers worked out how to place transistors on a graphene substrate for greatly improved performance and power draw. The team's work was improved upon in 2010 when scientists from the University of California produced the first graphene-based transistor operating at 300GHz.

Graphene has also been suggested as a means of boosting lithium-ion battery capacity tenfold, and a previously unnoticed property of graphene which allows it to act as an optical 'diode' promises to vastly improve the speed of fibre-optic networking systems.

On the surface, the research carried out by Hari Manoharan and his team isn't quite as practical. Described in a paper dubbed 'Designer Dirac fermions and topological phases in molecular graphene,' published this week in Nature, the team's research appears dry and academic. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and it holds substantial promise for the future of electronics.

Inspired by the multifarious possibilities of graphene, Manoharan and his team worked to convince electrons travelling on a copper sheet to organise themselves into a honeycomb arrangement. Placing individual molecules of carbon monoxide onto a copper sheet, they were able to force the electrons on the copper surface to form a graphene-like lattice arrangement. Moving the carbon monoxide molecules controls the electrons by repelling them.

Using this control, Manoharan's team was able to trick the electrons into behaving as though they had been exposed to a massive magnetic field in the range of 60 Tesla - some 30 per cent stronger than anything ever recorded. The results were staggering: the electrons began to behave as though there were completely free of mass, travelling through the copper at the speed of light exactly as they would in a vacuum.

As the name suggests, 'electronics' is all about the movement of electrons. By boosting the speed of the electrons, Manoharan and his team have potentially hit upon a means of greatly improving the performance of electronic components.

The research is far from ready for commercial implementation, of course, but Manoharan has indicated that his team will be working on using the new material as a test bed for future exploitation as well as creating new nanoscale materials with similarly impressive properties.

20 Comments

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PingCrosby 15th March 2012, 14:20 Quote
Graphene, the new Dremel.
Fizzban 15th March 2012, 15:55 Quote
Sick
Huxen5 15th March 2012, 16:53 Quote
Reads like a tech upgrade in GalCiv.
Nexxo 15th March 2012, 18:47 Quote
But does it run Crysis?



(Had to be asked...)
specofdust 15th March 2012, 19:04 Quote
Interesting stuff. Now don't get me wrong, I love being able to read an article like this, it's light reading for a scientist, but perhaps it's worth having little explanations for things at the end of the article? It's just I doubt that most users really know what an allotrope. Just a thought :)
Gareth Halfacree 15th March 2012, 19:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by specofdust
Interesting stuff. Now don't get me wrong, I love being able to read an article like this, it's light reading for a scientist, but perhaps it's worth having little explanations for things at the end of the article? It's just I doubt that most users really know what an allotrope. Just a thought :)
S'wat Google's there for, innit?
mucgoo 15th March 2012, 22:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by specofdust
Interesting stuff. Now don't get me wrong, I love being able to read an article like this, it's light reading for a scientist, but perhaps it's worth having little explanations for things at the end of the article? It's just I doubt that most users really know what an allotrope. Just a thought :)

Yes please.
Anneon 16th March 2012, 09:59 Quote
Feels like i have been hearing about Graphene for many years now. Do something practical with it already.
tad2008 16th March 2012, 10:32 Quote
Surely if they are moving molecules seemingly at the speed of light, then this sounds like a good concept for a propulsion system to me.
alialias 16th March 2012, 17:00 Quote
Correct me if i'm wrong (seriously, I don't know if i'm right), but electrons already move ridiculously fast within a wire, but the net movement of charge is far slower as the electrons bounce about so much. What's important is the overall drift velocity of the electrons, which is actually incredibly slow.
I wonder if the speeds that are talked about here are the electrons' individual speeds, or the net speed in one direction?
TeenGeek 16th March 2012, 18:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by alialias
Correct me if i'm wrong (seriously, I don't know if i'm right), but electrons already move ridiculously fast within a wire, but the net movement of charge is far slower as the electrons bounce about so much. What's important is the overall drift velocity of the electrons, which is actually incredibly slow.
I wonder if the speeds that are talked about here are the electrons' individual speeds, or the net speed in one direction?

well, it says that they moved through the copper at the speed of light, almost as if they were in a vacuum, and when electrons are in a vacuum, i dont think they bounce around much, as there is not anything to bounce off of.
james-milligan 16th March 2012, 22:48 Quote
Facinating! However you do hear a lot about scientific 'breakthroughs' such as this. It will be much more significant if something like this makes it into consumer products in the not too distant future.
thehippoz 17th March 2012, 00:06 Quote
too bad apple won't use this anytime soon.. it conflicts with plans to release the ipad 4 two months from now

can they sell it without ruining the whole upgrade cycle in place? they'll probably dumb it down before it goes public- with 2 guys blowing up every encryption scheme ever made in a bell labs somewhere.. on the side (to huangs disapprovement) it'll fold it all at once (while playing crysis :D)

those guys better watch it.. they'll be thrown in obamas gitmo
west 18th March 2012, 20:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by alialias
Correct me if i'm wrong (seriously, I don't know if i'm right), but electrons already move ridiculously fast within a wire, but the net movement of charge is far slower as the electrons bounce about so much. What's important is the overall drift velocity of the electrons, which is actually incredibly slow.
I wonder if the speeds that are talked about here are the electrons' individual speeds, or the net speed in one direction?

The only reason electrons don't travel though material at the speed of light is that they encounter atoms. If electrons are traveling though material at the speed of light they are not interacting with atoms (this is how super conductors work). This is why I'm not sure that this will be all together practical for electronics. It sounds to me like a room-temp superconductor, which I am highly skeptical of. But if it is it would be great for things like power lines. If the electrons don't interact with atoms then you won't lose any power via wires (which is a big problem with transmitting power over long distances now).
west 18th March 2012, 20:33 Quote
If they have managed to get electrons to though matter at the speed of light then they have indeed created a super conductor (and since it isn't stated above I'll assume it doesn't have to be cooled to super low temps to work) if this is the case then they are pretty much guaranteed a Nobel prize in physics. If this is what that paper truly describes then I would expect to be hearing A LOT more about it. At this point I doubt that they've done that this article says they have. Any way this was published in Nature just last week so there hasn't been much time for others to verify the experiments, we don't even know if this is for real (also Nature has been known to publish utter BS in the past, although it isn't exactly common for them to do so).
For them not to describe this as a super conductor implies that the electrons interact with the material (as does their saying that CO2 molecules are responsible for the effect) and if that's true then they can't be going the speed of light.
sorry for the double post.
SpAceman 18th March 2012, 23:26 Quote
Does this mean we can use pencils to overclock again?
specofdust 18th March 2012, 23:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anneon
Feels like i have been hearing about Graphene for many years now. Do something practical with it already.

We spent 60 years just proving that this stuff exists and isolating it, you'll have to forgive the scientific community if it takes them a decade or two to make your computer faster ;)

Really, this stuff was only properly discovered 6 or 7 years ago. It's going to take a while before it can be used, the price is still dropping by orders of magnitude every year or so. It was recently one of the most expensive materials on the planet. Four years ago it was 100 million USD per cm^2. Now its $100 per cm^2. It needs to drop by a lot more.
ssj12 19th March 2012, 05:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by specofdust
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anneon
Feels like i have been hearing about Graphene for many years now. Do something practical with it already.

We spent 60 years just proving that this stuff exists and isolating it, you'll have to forgive the scientific community if it takes them a decade or two to make your computer faster ;)

Really, this stuff was only properly discovered 6 or 7 years ago. It's going to take a while before it can be used, the price is still dropping by orders of magnitude every year or so. It was recently one of the most expensive materials on the planet. Four years ago it was 100 million USD per cm^2. Now its $100 per cm^2. It needs to drop by a lot more.

It was expensive, but its not antimatter.
specofdust 19th March 2012, 10:04 Quote
This is true. But if we're talking about making things out of it that we currently make from silicon, which is essentially free, then we have to recognise that material costs alone are currently prohibitive. That's not considering process costs, or the fact that we haven't got any commercial stage applications yet.
benji2412 19th March 2012, 13:57 Quote
My thoughts on graphene: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

My thoughts on graphene when a journalist explains a journal article: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
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