Scientists at IBM have demonstrated a radio-frequency graphene transistor running at 100 GHz—that’s 100 billion cycles per second—the highest frequency achieved so far for a graphene device. Although the technology is a long way from making it into computers, game consoles, or cell phones, it does start to pave the way for ever-faster chips and communications gear using carbon-based electronics—and IBM’s demo was built at a comparatively mammoth 240nm scale, leaving the company plenty of room to shrink down the technology using existing fabrication technology uses for silicon wafers—current tech can crunch down gate sizes to under 35 nm.
“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 IBM Research VP of Science and Technology Dr. T.C. Chen, in a statement. “The breakthrough we are announcing demonstrates clearly that graphene can be utilized to produce high performance devices and integrated circuits.”
Graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms bonded in a hexagonal arrangement that resembles chickenwire, and has unique physical properties. IBM’s graphene transistors are running at room temperature. In comparison to graphene transistors, silicon transistors with the same gate length top off at about 40 GHz, and the graphene transistors are now beating out all but the highest-frequency GaAS transistors.
The graphene RF transistors were originally developed for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA—the same folks who originally brought you the Internet) with an eye towards replacing GaAs transistors in military communications systems.
Image credit: IBM