IBM unveils first graphene integrated circuit

IBM has unveiled the world's first integrated circuit made from the carbon allotrope graphene, a semiconductor that could and extend the life of Moore's Law, pushing chip clock speeds well beyond the limits of conventional silicon.

Graphene, an allotrope of carbon with a microscopic honeycomb crystal structure, dubbed "atomic-scale chicken wire" enables processors to be built using smaller process technologies than silicon, yielding potentially huge advances in processor clock speeds.

As thinq_ reported in February, IBM demonstrated standalone graphene-based transistors running at 100GHz - two and a half times the current state-of-the-art 40GHz cut-off for silicon-based transistors.

A report today on EE Times heralds the demonstration as the first time a full integrated circuit constructed using graphene. IBM's chip consists of a graphene transistor and a pair of inductors integrated onto a silicon carbide wafer, and is aimed at wireless communications.

The chip operates as a broadband frequency mixer, and operates at up to 10GHz. Due to the properties of graphene, the circuit also remains stable at much higher temperatures - according to IBM's researchers, up to 125 degrees C.

The IBM team claims to have developed wafer-scale silicon carbide fabrication procedures that maintain the quality of graphene and allow it to be incorporated into more complex circuitry.

"While many nanotechnology breakthroughs focus on addressing the near-term shortcomings of traditional silicon microprocessors, this innovative research is a key milestone towards overcoming those design obstacles with a new material that delivers unique functionality beyond what can be achieved with silicon semiconductors," said an IBM Research spokesperson.

The fabrication process, which involves layers of oxide and metal, is compatible with optical lithography, enabling it to be used for wide-scale manufacture.

You can view IBM's original research here.