~ High-performance monolithic graphene transistors created
Researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany have created high-performance monolithic graphene transistors using a simple lithographic etching process. This could be the missing step that finally paves the way to post-silicon electronics.
As you probably know by now, graphene has a long and wonderful list of desirable properties, including being the most conductive material yet discovered. In theory, according to early demos from the likes of IBM and UCLA, graphene transistors should be capable of switching at speeds between 100GHz and a few terahertz. The problem is, graphene doesn't have a bandgap - an innate ability to switch on and off, depending on the voltage; it isn't a natural semiconductor, like silicon - and so it is proving very hard to build transistors out of the stuff. Until now!
~ Graphene: The perfect water filter
In an experiment, the University of Manchester researchers filled a metal container with a variety of liquids and gases and then covered it with a film of graphene oxide. Their most sensitive equipment was unable to register any molecules leaving the container, except water vapor. The graphene oxide filter even prevented helium gas from escaping, which is notoriously finicky.
This fantastical feature joins a huge list of properties that have led graphene to be called a "wonder material." Graphene, which is merely a single layer of carbon atoms, is the most conductive material in the world, both electrically and thermally. It is incredibly strong, and yet the thinnest material in the known universe. Graphene enables CPUs that can operate at 300GHz or higher, batteries that last 10 times as long, and petabit and exabit network transmission speeds. It even creates electricity when struck by light!
~DoE calls for a chemical battery with 5x capacity, within 5 years - can it be done with Graphite?
The Department of Energy wants batteries with five times the energy storage of those we have today. They want them to be five times cheaper and to be ready in five years. Earlier this year the Department's solicitation for proposals was announced, and now five universities have been chosen for the job along with several national labs and private companies. According to US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a "Manhattan Project-like atmosphere" is to be fostered.
~ Cheap, graphene-based solar cells could be just years away
Today's solar cells are usually made out of silicon that is too expensive to be cost-effective for the everyday consumer because highly purified, turned into crystal, then sliced thin. Because of the cost, researchers have been looking for affordable alternatives, settling on indium tin oxide used inside hybrid or nanostructured solar cells. Though indium tin oxide is becoming more prevalent - it's used in items likes smartphone touch screens - the indium is still quite expensive. However, by creating a solar cell using everyone's favorite wonder material, graphene, MIT scientists might have found a cheaper and more malleable alternative to indium tin oxide.
~ The top tech and science breakthroughs of 2012
Without batteries we wouldn't have smartphones, remote controls, pacemakers, or just about any digital device. It is unfortunate, then, that batteries - being physical, chemical devices - have not scaled at anywhere near the same rate as computers, which are governed by Moore's law and Dennard scaling. As a result, our computers - and especially our mobile devices - go from strength to strength, but if anything our battery life is actually decreasing. A sticky situation if there ever was one; even the Department of Energy realizes the pinch we're in and has put out a plaintive plea for a battery with 5x today's capacity, within 5 years.
~ Rice University creates graphene/nanotube hybrid material that could redefine electronics and energy storage
To create the hybrid material, the James Tour Group at Rice University began with a copper substrate coated in a single layer of carbon atoms (graphene). From here, the process is a little bit mystical - it sounds like they place a mixture of aluminium oxide and an "iron catalyst" on the graphene, and heat the whole thing in a furnace. Within a few minutes, carbon nanotubes skyscrapers spring up from the graphene.
As you can see in the picture below, we're quite literally talking about a sheet of graphene with carbon nanotubes growing upwards from it - up to a distance of 120 microns (0.12mm), which is really rather impressive at this scale. If we scaled it up to actual trees, they would rise into outer space. As you can see in the image at the top of the story, the carbon nanotube forest is also very dense. The most important thing, though, is that the bonds between the graphene and nanotubes are completely seamless - as far as electrons are concerned, there is absolutely no resistance when transitioning between graphene and nanotube.
~ IBM creates first high-density, self-assembled carbon nanotube computer chip
IBMers at the Watson Research Center in New York have become the first scientists to create high-density, working computer chips from carbon nanotube transistors fashioned using conventional semiconductor processes. With a density of one billion transistors per square centimeter, and performance in the region of five times faster than silicon transistors, IBM's breakthrough indicates that carbon nanotubes will be the semiconductor that eventually replaces silicon in computer chips.
~ MIT creates carbon nanotube pencil, doodles some electronic circuits
In a normal pencil, the lead is usually fashioned out of graphite and a clay binder. Graphite, as you may already know, is a form of carbon that is made up of layer after layer of the wonder material graphene. When you write or draw with a graphite pencil, a mixture of tiny graphene flakes and clay are deposited on the paper, creating a mark. (Incidentally, pencil leads never contained lead; it's just that when graphite was first used in the 1500s, they thought it was lead ore, and the name stuck).
With MIT's carbon nanotube pencil, the lead is formed by compressing single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT), until you have a substance that looks and behaves very similarly to graphite. The difference, though, is that drawing with MIT's pencil actually deposits whole carbon nanotubes on paper - and carbon nanotubes have some rather exciting properties.