Template Grown Graphene Paves the Way for Nanoelectronics

Graphene electronics, invented in 2003 and patented by Walt de Heer, a recent Keck grantee, is at the verge of revolutionizing electronics. Discovery of graphene was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010, yet it received worldwide attention primarily because of its potential use in electronics.

Walt and his team have vigorously addressed the basic problems of graphene electronics. Recently major industrial research teams from IBM and Hughes Research have used their methods to produce electronic devices on the wafer scale. While these are very important advances, De Heer and his team have recently discovered a way to resolve a persistent problem in graphene elctronics. Rather than cutting large graphene sheets into the desired shapes, they now grow graphene on specially prepared silicon carbide crystals. The crystals are etched in such a way that graphene only forms on the treated areas in ahigh temperature annealing process as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Templated growth, schematic. (Top) a graphene ribbon is grown on steps etched into the silicon carbide crystal; (Bottom) the ribbon is supplied with a source, drain and gate to complete the transistor.

This way of growing graphene is analogous to knitting which leaves well-defined borders, in contrast to the lithography methods that are akin to cutting, which leaves rough borders that easily fray. The templated growth technique, discovered in 2010 and published in Nature Nanotechnology, has been used to produce 10,000 transistors on the 4 mm X 6 mm silicon carbide chip in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Image of an array of graphene transistors on a silicon carbide chip, each supplied with a source (S), drain (D) and gate (G), as shown in the inset.

Most recently template grown graphene was found to support room temperature ballistic transport (with little resistance). This is an important step because now graphene structures can be produced with properties that resemble carbon nanotubesyet are easily interconnected in nanoelectronic devices such as those shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Electrostatic force image of two semicircular, 1 micron long, 20 nm wide graphene ribbons connect to common micron wide graphene leads. The graphene ribbons have ballistic transport properties that are similar to carbon nanotubes.

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