Samsung Makes Graphene Transistor Structure Breakthrough

Samsung's boffins have made a breakthrough when it comes to a new transistor structure which utilises graphene, in research that was published online in the journal Science.

The company claims the advance brings us one step nearer to replacing silicon transistors with graphene.

As Samsung notes, the industry has been increasing the speed of devices - the performance of semi-conductors - by scaling down technology, reducing transistor size and the distance electrons must travel. However, the potential limits of such scaling down are being reached, scientists reckon.

And a switch to a material with higher electron mobility - which also allows for faster electron velocity - would be an alternative path to the future, one such material being graphene. In fact, graphene boasts levels of electron mobility in excess of two hundred times more than silicon.

So why hasn't the switch got underway yet? Because there are problems with graphene, in so much as unlike conventional semi-conductors, current cannot simply be switched off with graphene because it's semi-metallic.

A transistor must hold on and off flow states of current, representing the 1 and 0 of digital signals, but now the researchers at Samsung have come up with a method that can realise this with graphene.

Previous attempts have been made to convert graphene to a semi-conductor, but this is a poor solution, as it decreases the electron mobility of the material drastically, rather defeating the object of the exercise.

However, the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology has taken a new tack, and claims to have re-engineered the basic operating principles of digital switches, to successfully develop a device which can turn off the current in graphene without any loss in electron mobility.

The graphene-silicon Schottky barrier can facilitate the switching of current on or off, via control of the height of the barrier. Clever stuff.

Samsung has patented the device, known as the Graphene Barristor, with nine major patents. "Barristers" and patents being issues Samsung is pretty familiar with already, thanks to Apple.

Of course, it'll be a long time before we see actual hardware on the market sporting graphene transistors, but this is another step on the road to the future of ever thinner, slicker devices.