In NEW YORK – They have discovered A one-atom-thick layer of carbon that may one day be able to help IBM and the U.S. military build more-precise radar and computers that operate at what they believe to be near the speed of light.
Physicists Konstantin Novoselov, age 36, and Andre Geim, age 52, at the University of Manchester in Britain, have found a way to manipulate how graphene, the thinnest & toughest material ever produced, conducts electricity, a breakthrough that opens the door to its use in digital electronics.
Because graphene conducts electricity 30 times as fast as silicon (which is what they’re using these days in microprocessors) which is pretty much approaching the speed of light. According to the researchers, companies such as IBM may use the findings to speed up computers. The material was first isolated by the two Russian-born scientists in 2004, and they were awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics last year. The latest research was published more recently in the journal of Science.
“They’ve observed a phenomenon that was unattainable previously,” said Yu-Ming Lin, an IBM researcher who developed the first integrated circuit from wafer-size graphene in June. The Armonk, N.Y.-based company, which funded the study along with Samsung Electronics and the U.S. Air Force and Navy, will now consider how to use graphene in semiconductors and computers, he said.
Until recently, use of graphene was limited to development of more-efficient batteries and foldable touch screens, items that didn’t require scientists to be able to stop and start the movement of electrons in the material.
Novoselov and Geim were able to control the current by suspending two layers of graphene in a vacuum, reordering the electronic structure.
The finding may lead to “completely new types of transistors,” Novoselov said in a telephone interview. “You can probably start using it for computer chips, but we believe we have something different, bigger here.”
IBM, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, is researching the material’s ability to create more-efficient mobile phones, clearer wireless signals and better radar, Lin said. The material’s magnetic traits may also enable IBM to utilize high-frequency waves for medical devices that would spot diseases early on, Lin said.
Novoselov and Geim are part of a $1.4 billion effort put together by nine European organizations, including the University of Cambridge and Finland-based Nokia Oyj, to research graphene.
The thing I find even more interesting is that about ten years from now, we’re all going to be hearing about the regular use of graphene just like today we are so used to hearing about silicon. I’m sure the possibilities are endless. I can only imagine how things will be 10-20 years from today.