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The revolution in the nanoelectronics industry is already here

A new development may accelerate the use of graphene in the nanoelectronics industry and be used in many technological applications

Improving graphene production. Illustration:
Improving graphene production. Illustration:

A new international study with the participation of researchers from Tel Aviv University has developed a new method for growing ultra-long and narrow strips of graphene (a material derived from graphite), which are used as a semiconductor for the benefit of the nanoelectronics industry. The researchers believe that the development may be used for many technological applications including advanced switching devices, spintronic devices, and in the future even for quantum computing.

The research was conducted under the leadership of an international team of researchers, including Prof. Michael Orbach and Prof. Oded Hod from the school of chemistry at the Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, as well as scientists from China, South Korea and Japan. The study was published in the journal Nature.

Prof. Auerbach and Prof. Hood explain that graphene is actually a single layer of graphite built as a honeycomb of carbon atoms. Graphene is very suitable for technological uses, since in addition to its extraordinary mechanical strength, in recent years other fascinating properties of structures made of a small number of twisted graphene layers have been discovered with superconductivity, spontaneous electrical polarization, controlled heat conduction, and structural superconductivity - a situation in which a material Exhibits negligible friction and wear.

One of the limitations of using graphene for the needs of the electronics industry is the fact that it is semi-metallic, which means that on the one hand the charge carriers can move freely in it, but on the other hand the amount of charge carriers available for conduction in it is very low. Hence, graphene cannot be used either as a conducting metal or as a semiconductor used by the electronic chip industry.

However, if a long, thin strip of graphene is cut from a wide graphene sheet, the quantum charge carriers are confined in the narrow dimension of the sheet, which makes them semi-conductors and allows them to be used in quantum switching devices. As of today, there are a number of barriers facing the use of graphene strips for devices, among them the ability to grow narrow, long sheets that are insulated from the environment.

In the new study, the researchers were able to develop a method to catalytically grow narrow, long, and regular graphene strips directly between the layers of the hexagonal boron-nitride insulating material, as well as demonstrate peak performance quantum switching devices based on the grown strips. The unique growth mechanism was revealed through advanced molecular dynamics calculations developed by the groups of researchers from Israel. These calculations showed that ultra-low friction in certain growth directions within the boron-nitride crystal dictates the properties of the strip structure, enables its growth to large lengths and constitutes a clean and isolated environment for the growing strip.

The researchers believe that the development constitutes a scientific and technological breakthrough in the field of growing long graphene strips directly in insulated matrices, which is expected to open the door to branch research that will lead to the use of these strips in the nanoelectronics industry.

Prof. Auerbach and Prof. Hood summarize: "The importance of the new development is that, for the first time, it will be possible to grow and produce carbon-based nanoelectronic switching devices directly within an isolated matrix. Devices of this type will be used in many technological applications including electronic systems, spintronics and even quantum computing devices".

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