Researchers think they've solved graphene's biggest problem

Graphene: Hailed across the globe for its lightning speed, ability to remove nuclear waste from water and potential in treating Alzheimers disease. Yet, the 100%-carbon substance has been leading a sad existence. Graphene was condemned to spend all eternity in a lab because of one flaw: When used as a transistor, it can't be switched off. It's a super material but only on paper.

Not any more, say researchers at the University of California, Riverside. Guanxiong Liu and his team believe they have  found a way around graphene's biggest problem.

The answer, as it turns out, is outside the proverbial box. Researchers say that engineers should stop trying to create an artificial band gap – which would allow graphene to "switch off" – and stop trying to make this unconventional substance into a conventional semiconductor.

Rather, they should rely on the phenomenon of "negative resistance," Liu to MIT's Technology Review. This would force voltage to drop as a current runs through the graphene transistor.

"We intentionally avoid any attempt to artificially induce an energy band, which would make graphene 'more-silicon-like,'" Liu told the Review.

If test models of the team's idea go well, the future of processors really could be graphene's. Bye-bye, silicon.

Creative Commons image by: University of Exeter