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News Link • Technology: Software

Graphene Transistors Do Triple Duty in Wireless Communications


Graphene's potential was recognized earlier this month when those who first studied it in the labwon the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. But researchers are just beginning to figure out how to take advantage of the novel carbon material in electronic devices.

Triple transistor: Single graphene transistors like this one can be made to operate in three modes and perform functions that usually require multiple transistors in a circuit.
Credit: Alexander Balandin

Researchers have already made blisteringly fast graphene transistors. Now they've used graphene to make a transistor that can be switched between three different modes of operation, which in conventional circuits must be performed by three separate transistors. These configurable transistors could lead to more compact chips for sending and receiving wireless signals.

Chips that use fewer transistors while maintaining all the same functions could be less expensive, use less energy, and free up room inside portable electronics like smart phones, where space is tight. The new graphene transistor is an analog device, of the type that's used for wireless communications in Bluetooth headsets and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.

Graphene's perfect structure at the atomic level provides smooth sailing for electrons, and the material conducts electrons better than any other materials do at room temperature. So far, it's been used to make transistors that switch at about 100 gigahertz, or 100 billion times per second, 10 times faster than the best silicon transistors; it's predicted the material could be made into transistors that are even 1,000 times faster than this. And because graphene is smooth and flat, it should be compatible with the chip-making equipment at semiconductor fabs.

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