Monday, November 24, 2008

Form Factor (II)

This is a picture of a material that will change everything about computing. It's Graphene, the wonder material that does amazing things with electrons and light. The inhibiting factor to leveraging graphene was the ability to manufacture it cheaply until now...

"Graphene is created when graphite — the mother form of all graphitic carbon, which is used to make the pigment that allows pencils to write on paper — is reduced down to a one-atom-thick sheet. Graphene is among the strongest materials known and has an attractive array of benefits. These sheets — single-layer graphene — have potential as electrodes for solar cells, for use in sensors, as the anode electrode material in lithium batteries and as efficient zero-band-gap semiconductors."

...the researchers developed a method of placing graphite oxide paper in a solution of pure hydrazine (a chemical compound of nitrogen and hydrogen), which reduces the graphite oxide paper into single-layer graphene.

Such methods have been studied by others, but this is the first reported instance of using hydrazine as the solvent. The graphene produced from the hydrazine solution is also a more efficient electrical conductor. Field-effect devices display output currents three orders of magnitude higher than previously reported using chemically produced graphene.,,

"We have discovered a route toward solution processing of large-scale graphene sheets," Tung said. "These breakthroughs represent the future of graphene nanoelectronic research."

What this means for computer storage borders on the fantastic...

"What distinguishes graphene from other next-generation memories is the on-off power ratio – the amount of juice a circuit holds when it's on, as opposed to off. "It's huge — a million-to-one," said Tour. "Phase change memory, the other thing the industry is considering, runs at 10-to-1. That means the 'off' state holds, say, one-tenth the amount of electrical current than the 'on' state."

"Current tends to leak from an "off" that's holding a charge. "That means in a 10-by-10 grid, 10 'offs' would leak enough to look like they were 'on.' With our method, it would take a million 'offs' in a line to look like 'on,''' he said. "So this is big. It allows us to make a much larger array."

Tour said the new switches are faster than his lab's current testing systems can measure. And they're robust. "We've tested it in the lab 20,000 times with no degradation," said Tour. "Its lifetime is going to be huge, much better than flash memory."

Best of all, the raw material is far from exotic. Graphene is a form of carbon. In a clump it's called graphite, which you spread on paper every time you use a pencil. "

The Singularity is Near

Click here to see an earlier BRT blurb on Graphene
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