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CNSE Professor Ji Ung Lee Publishes Innovative Graphene Research in IEEE Spectrum Magazine
Article outlines new advances that could enable faster and more powerful transistors in computer chips
Innovative research at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) is advancing the concept that graphene could someday replace the standard switches found in today’s transistors.
The use of graphene – a sheet of carbon that’s only an atom wide – could make transistors far more efficient and powerful in the future. That’s the conclusion of Dr. Ji Ung Lee
, CNSE Empire Innovation Professor of Nanoscale Engineering, who co-wrote the article entitled, “Graphene: The Ultimate Switch” with Dr. Chun-Yung Sung, who supervises graphene research for IBM. The paper was published in IEEE Spectrum Magazine,
the flagship publication of IEEE, which is the world’s largest professional technology association.
Dr. Lee Discusses the Potential Future of Transistors
Dr. Lee’s research cites the ability of graphene to “steer electrons,” and make them “behave like massless particles, speeding along in straight lines for long distances.” This phenomenon could reduce wasted energy and considerably speed up transistors that power a wide variety of consumer products ranging from computers to smartphones, as well as an increasing number of commercial technologies, from medical to military applications.
His research points to the possibility of replacing current CMOS transistor technology with the graphene-based transistor, which could pave the way for the development of reconfigurable transistors – allowing computer chips to accomplish more work with fewer transistors than they currently require.
“CMOS is the dominant technology that’s used in today’s computer chips, with transistors that are fabricated only to function in a certain way,” said Dr. Lee. “What we’re trying to do is to make a dynamically reconfigurable logic. Meaning in an instant, we can reconfigure the switch to function in a completely different way. What we hope to do is to extend both CMOS and functionality, while enhancing the future of computing technology.”
While this research opens the door to new possibilities, the paper cites a number of hurdles that must be overcome. For instance, electrons currently only move about a micrometer in graphene before they scatter due to imperfections. According to the authors, for graphene to revolutionize transistors, electrons would have to be able to travel at least 100 times farther.
Still, Dr. Lee is hopeful that graphene may provide important solutions to move transistor technology well beyond what is currently possible.
“It would be speculative at this point,” said Dr. Lee, “but Moore’s law, which has been guiding the growth of silicon technology, would come to an end. We’re trying to develop technology that will not only continue it, but accelerate the growth. We can only imagine what that would entail.”
Dr. Lee credits the efforts of a number of students at CNSE that contributed to the joint paper, and noted the opportunities for current and future students to continue this innovative work at the most advanced research enterprise of its kind in the world.