Boffins build world's smallest transistor

Staff Writer on
Boffins build world's smallest transistor

Researchers at the University of Manchester claim to have created the world's smallest transistor from graphene, measuring just one atom thick and 10 atoms wide..

Dr Kostya Novoselov and Professor Andre Geim at Manchester's School of Physics and Astronomy have been able to carve graphene into tiny electronic circuits with individual transistors about the size of a single molecule.

Moore's Law, which has been driving the development of processors and integrated circuits since the 1960s, is predicted to hit fundamental challenges in the next 10 to 20 years.

The researchers said that all semiconductors at around the 10nm scale oxidise, decompose and uncontrollably migrate along surfaces like water droplets on a hot plate.

However, graphene transistors start showing advantages and good performance at sizes below 10nm.

"Previously, researchers tried to use large molecules as individual transistors to create a new kind of electronic circuit. It is like a bit of chemistry added to computer engineering," said Dr Novoselov.

"Now one can think of designer molecules acting as transistors connected into designer computer architecture on the basis of the same material [graphene], and use the same fabrication approach that is currently used by semiconductor industry."

The Manchester team has shown that it is possible to carve out nanometre-scale transistors from a single graphene crystal.

Unlike all other known materials, graphene remains highly stable and conductive even when cut into devices one nanometre wide.

"It is too early to promise graphene supercomputers. Unfortunately, no existing technology allows the cutting materials with true nanometre precision, " said Professor Geim.

"But this is exactly the same challenge that all post-silicon electronics has to face. At least we now have a material that can meet such a challenge."

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