A team of researchers from the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have solved a problem that previously presented a serious hurdle for the use of graphene in electronic devices.
Graphene is a single-atom thick carbon crystal with unique properties beneficial for electronics including extremely high electron mobility and phonon thermal conductivity. However, graphene does not have an energy band gap, which is a specific property of semiconductor materials that separate electrons from holes and allows a transistor implemented with a given material to be completely switched off.
A transistor implemented with graphene will be very fast but will suffer from leakage currents and power dissipation while in the off state because of the absence of the energy band gap. Efforts to induce a band-gap in graphene via quantum confinement or surface functionalization have not resulted in a breakthrough. That left scientists wondering whether graphene applications in electronic circuits for information processing were feasible.
Scanning electron microscopy image of graphene device used in the study. The scale bar is one micrometer. The UCR logo next to it is implemented with etched graphene.
The UCR team demonstrated that the negative differential resistance experimentally observed in graphene field-effect transistors allows for construction of viable non-Boolean computational architectures with the gap-less graphene. The negative differential resistance – observed under certain biasing schemes – is an intrinsic property of graphene resulting from its symmetric band structure.
Modern digital logic, which is used in computers and cell phones, is based on Boolean algebra implemented in semiconductor switch-based circuits. It uses zeroes and ones for encoding and processing the information. However, the Boolean logic is not the only way to process information. The UC Riverside team proposed to use specific current-voltage characteristics of graphene for constructing the non-Boolean logic architecture, which utilizes the principles of the non-linear network
ABSTRACT – Graphene revealed a number of unique properties beneficial for electronics. However, graphene does not have an energy band-gap, which presents a serious hurdle for its applications in digital logic gates. The efforts to induce a band-gap in graphene via quantum confinement or surface functionalization have not resulted in a breakthrough. Here we show that the negative differential resistance experimentally observed in graphene field-effect transistors of “conventional” design allows for construction of viable non-Boolean computational architectures with the gap-less graphene. The negative differential resistance – observed under certain biasing schemes – is an intrinsic property of graphene resulting from its symmetric band structure. Our atomistic modeling shows that the negative differential resistance appears not only in the drift-diffusion regime but also in the ballistic regime at the nanometer-scale – although the physics changes. The obtained results present a conceptual change in graphene research and indicate an alternative route for graphene’s applications in information processing
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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