We are always looking at new technical innovations to improve energy efficiency. An article on the Wall Street Pit website describes how researchers are looking at graphene to play an increasingly important role.
Energy-Saving Graphene Computers with 1,000x Speed and Efficiency
Graphene is the strongest and lightest material in existence, with an amazing tensile strength of 130,000,000,000 Pascals (130 gigapascals),
It’s harder than steel and diamond, yet it’s only one atom-thick (0.345 nanometer). It also weighs only 0.77 milligrams per square meter.
Another valuable property of grapheme is that it’s a zero-overlap semimetal which electrical conductivity is remarkably high. Graphene is known to have highly-mobile electrons located above and below the graphene sheet. These electrons overlap and help to fortify the carbon to carbon bonds in this unique crystalline allotrope.
For years, there was a theory that two dimensional compounds were impossible to exist due to thermal instability when isolated. But, this was disproved when two professors extracted graphene from graphite with the use of a tape. In 2010, Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov of the University of Manchester won the Nobel Prize in Physics for producing graphene from graphite and mapping its properties. This likewise opened a huge opportunity for accelerating certain important industries with its many potential applications.
Today, researchers from Northwestern University, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Central Florida have joined minds together in the development of a graphene-based transistor. With this undertaking, they intend to have silicon-based transistors used in modern computers to be replaced by this revolutionary invention.
Transistors function as on and off switches, forming logic gates in computers when placed in various arrangements. These logic gates enable microprocessors to solve complex logic and arithmetic problems. But, since 2005, the speed of computer microprocessors which utilize silicon transistors have clock speeds mostly in the 3 to 4 gigahertz range only.
“If you want to continue to push technology forward, we need faster computers to be able to run bigger and better simulations for climate science, for space exploration, for Wall Street. To get there, we can’t rely on silicon transistors anymore,” said Ryan M. Gelfand, director of the NanoBioPhotonics Laboratory at the University of Central Florida.
Gelfand and Joseph Friedman, assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, were both graduate students then when they conducted their research on graphene-based transistor. They discovered its potential to perform so much better than a silicon-based transistor.
This led to the gathering of more researchers to develop a next-generation transistor that’s based on a graphene ribbon. The team learned that they could change the resistance of current flowing through the transistor by applying a magnetic field to the ribbon. By using the adjacent carbon nanotubes in increasing or decreasing the current, the magnetic field gets to control the current’s flow.
According to the team, with a cascading series of graphene transistor-based logic gates, a computer could have clock speeds near the terahertz range, thus making it a thousand times faster and more efficient than today’s computers.
Graphene computers also use lesser energy, only a hundredth of the power consumed by silicon-based ones. Moreover, computers could be designed smaller in size, a great advantage for both device manufacturers and users who appreciate convenience and functionality.
Friedman also said that they still have on the drawing board yet another project, an all-carbon computing system and that they’ve already started to make its prototype at the NanoSpinCompute research laboratory.
At the EPFL’s Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements, another study has been conducted on the use of graphene as a quantum capacitor for quantum computers. The researchers are looking forward to utilizing the special properties of graphene in the next step of their technological innovation.