24 July 2007

Nanotubes' amazing little brother

Think of graphene as a carbon nanotube slit lengthwise and laid flat, like a ribbon. First synthesized just three years ago, my sense from research reports to-date is that it may be more tractable as an interconnect material than nanotubes, and more readily manufacturable. As with carbon nanotubes, its electrical properties are remarkable, and it would not surprise me to see this material in microchips within a decade. If the process and manufacturing challenges can be licked--and they will be if the promise is what it seems to be--then the payback in terms of circuit speed and energy savings will be substantial. When you meet those gloom-and-doomers who beset every conversation with predictions of woe, just point them at this stuff, which looks likely to let us do more with less. Way more, with way less.
Researchers in both industry and academia are looking for alternative materials to replace copper as interconnects. Graphene could be a possible successor to copper, Nayak said, because of metallic graphene’s excellent conductivity. Even at room temperature, electrons pass effortlessly, near the speed of light and with little resistance, through metallic graphene. This would almost ensure a graphene interconnect would stay much cooler than a copper interconnect of the same size.

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