Silicon may have been the integrated circuit material of choice for over three decades, but IBM has just shown that future computer processors may instead contain graphene transistors. The company has just published a paper in Science detailing a demonstration of graphene transistors running at 100GHz.
As with silicon transistors, the frequency refers to the number of times that the transistor can be switched on and off in a second. As a point of comparison, IBM says that the cut-off frequency of state of the art silicon transistors of the same gate length (240nm) currently sits at around 40GHz.
According to IBM, there wouldn’t even need to be a revolution in the way we produce chips to accommodate a switchover. The company says that the processing technology used to create the record-breaking transistor is “compatible" with the process used to fabricate silicon chips.
In fact, IBM confidently predicts that "zippy computer processors" using the new transistors could be doing the rounds in just “a decade or so”. In the meantime, IBM says that the graphene transistors could be seen in “performance imaging, radar, and communications devices” over the next few years.
Explaining the advantage of the new technology, Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president of science and technology at IBM Research, said that "a key advantage of graphene lies in the very high speeds in which electrons propagate, which is essential for achieving high-speed, high-performance next generation transistors."
A graphene layer is only one atom thick, and is made up of a honeycomb-like structure of carbon atoms. IBM says that the material has, "unique electrical, optical, mechanical and thermal properties," and says that its potential is currently being "explored intensely."