Breakthrough could push graphene into computing use

Graphene has moved a step closer to appearing in electronics after scientists discovered a new version of the material that has benefits for computing.

Breakthrough could push graphene into computing use

According to scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, they have uncovered an entirely new carbon-based material related to graphene that can act as a semiconductor, which pure graphene cannot.

“A major drive in the graphene research community is to make the material semiconducting so it can be used in electronic applications,” says Junhong Chen, professor of mechanical engineering and a member of the research team. “Our major contribution in this study was achieved through a chemical modification of graphene.

“Now all three characteristics of electrical conductivity – conducting, insulating and semiconducting – are found in the carbon family, offering needed compatibility for use in future electronics.”

Now all three characteristics of electrical conductivity – conducting, insulating and semiconducting – are found in the carbon family

According to the scientists, the breakthrough is crucial because semiconductor qualities are needed to control the electrical current in such a strong conductor as graphene and because silicon transistors are reaching a performance barrier.

Graphene monoxide also scales up more easily than straight graphene, although the scientists admit it remains a work in progress.

The team stumbled on the new material while researching how graphene nanotubes would perform when mixed with tin oxide nanoparticles and heated in a vacuum.

“In the reduction process, you expect to lose oxygen,” says Michael Weinert, professor of physics and director of UWM’s Laboratory for Surface Studies. “But we actually gained more oxygen content. So we’re at a point where we’re still learning more about it.”

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