First-ever functional graphene semiconductor is created by researchers

The goal of the twenty-first century is to create faster and smaller electronic devices, whether for robotics or the medical field.

To meet this growing demand, experts have been working hard to produce advanced materials for contemporary electronic devices.

A group of scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have now accomplished a noteworthy milestone in this project by effectively creating the first functional semiconductor in history using graphene.

Leading this development at Georgia Tech was Walter de Heer, Regents’ Professor of Physics. “To me, this is like a Wright brothers moment,” de Heer said. Fascinatingly, this recently developed technology may help to advance quantum computing.

A possible substitute for silicon

Graphene is a two-dimensional structure resembling a honeycomb, created by arranging a single layer of carbon atoms in a hexagonal grid. It is highly renowned for possessing remarkable properties like flexibility, strong mechanical strength, and electrical conductivity.

“It’s an extremely robust material, one that can handle very large currents and can do so without heating up and falling apart,” de Heer stated.

Materials that display electrical conductivity under specific circumstances are known as semiconductors.

Given that the widely used silicon material is almost at its limit due to the growing demand for smaller and faster electronic devices, this innovation is very significant for the electronics industry.

In the years to come, Georgia Tech’s graphene semiconductor might become a competitive alternative to silicon. Press release states that the semiconductor can be processed using “conventional microelectronics processing methods.”

“We now have an extremely robust graphene semiconductor with 10 times the mobility of silicon, and which also has unique properties not available in silicon,” de Heer stated.

The evolution of the content

De Heer and his associates achieved this by developing a process that uses specialized furnaces to grow graphene on silicon carbide wafers.

This led to the formation of epitaxial graphene, a single layer adhering to the crystal face of silicon carbide. After extensive testing, the researchers demonstrated that epitaxial graphene exhibits semiconducting characteristics when it chemically binds to silicon carbide.

The conductivity of the material was also tested by the scientists using a method known as doping. This new graphene semiconductor has ten times the mobility of silicon, according to their experiments.

Key band gap issue
To achieve this breakthrough, though, was difficult because the team had to overcome a significant barrier to graphene research: the lack of a “band gap.”

This crucial electrical characteristic is a fundamental component of electronic performance and is required for semiconductors to turn on and off efficiently.

Prior to this breakthrough, graphene was band gapless.

“A long-standing problem in graphene electronics is that graphene didn’t have the right band gap and couldn’t switch on and off at the correct ratio,” according to a press release from Lei Ma, director of Tianjin University’s Tianjin International Center for Nanoparticles and Nanosystems.

Numerous people have attempted to address this over the years using a range of techniques. Ma, a co-author of this work, stated, “Over the years, many have tried to address this with a variety of methods. Our technology achieves the band gap and is a crucial step in realizing graphene-based electronics,”

This accomplishment ushers in a new era of electronics technology that fully utilizes graphene’s remarkable properties. It also represents a paradigm shift in the field.