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IBM Breakthrough Finds Replacement For Silicon

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Here's something a bit more techie to wrap your brains around on a Monday morning: IBM has announced a significant breakthrough which may have just found the long term successor to silicon in chip technology...

Called 'graphene', it is - and I quote IBM here: "a single atom-thick layer of carbon atoms bonded in a hexagonal honeycomb-like arrangement. This two-dimensional form of carbon has unique electrical, optical, mechanical and thermal properties and its technological applications are being explored intensely."

Explored successfully too by the sound of things since IBM has confirmed tests with graphene have achieved the highest cut-off frequency ever recorded: 100 billion cycles per second, or 100GHz. To put this into some context, the highest cut-off frequency ever recorded for silicon is 40GHz. Furthermore, the breakthrough was achieved using standard silicon fabrication techniques so one material can simply be substituted for the other.

"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," said Dr. T.C. Chen, VP of Science and Technology at IBM. "The breakthrough we are announcing demonstrates clearly that graphene can be utilized to produce high performance devices and integrated circuits."

And the good news doesn't end there. IBM claims not only was the graphene used obtained for natural resources (meaning no specific strain of graphene is required), but also that the tests were in no way stretching the limits of the material "leaving plenty of space for further optimization of its performance".

Naturally enough no time frame was put on the use of graphene in commercial products, but it is rather good to know that as we push the properties of silicon ever closer to breaking point we already look to have an heir apparent waiting in the wings. Hopefully this should delay the grey goo apocalypse a little longer...

Links:
Press Release
Image courtesy of newscom

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