Graphene “nano-origami” creates tiniest microchips ever

3D illustration of graphene molecular grid. (Image: Olive Tree | Shutterstock.)

The tiniest microchips yet can be made from graphene and other 2D-materials, using a form of ‘nano-origami’, physicists at the University of Sussex have found.

This is the first time this research has been done, and it is covered in a paper published in the ACS Nano journal. The researchers believe that this next generation of microchips could lead to computers and phones running thousands of times faster.

By creating kinks in the structure of graphene, researchers at the University of Sussex have made the nanomaterial behave like a transistor, and have shown that when a strip of graphene is crinkled in this way, it can behave like a microchip, which is around 100 times smaller than conventional microchips.

“We’re mechanically creating kinks in a layer of graphene. It’s a bit like nano-origami,” said Professor Alan Dalton at the School of Mathematical and Physics Sciences, University of Sussex.

“Using these nanomaterials will make our computer chips smaller and faster. It is absolutely critical that this happens as computer manufacturers are now at the limit of what they can do with traditional semiconducting technology,” Dalton said. “Ultimately, this will make our computers and phones thousands of times faster in the future.”

“Ultimately, this will make our computers and phones thousands of times faster in the future”

Professor Alan Dalton at the School of Mathematical and Physics Sciences, University of Sussex

“This kind of technology – “straintronics” using nanomaterials as opposed to electronics – allows space for more chips inside any device. Everything we want to do with computers – to speed them up – can be done by crinkling graphene like this.”

“Instead of having to add foreign materials into a device, we’ve shown we can create structures from graphene and other 2D materials simply by adding deliberate kinks into the structure,” added Dr. Manoj Tripathi, Research Fellow in Nano-structured Materials at the University of Sussex and lead author on the paper. “By making this sort of corrugation we can create a smart electronic component, like a transistor, or a logic gate.”

The development is a greener, more sustainable technology because no additional materials need to be added, and because this process works at room temperature rather than high temperature, it uses less energy to create, teh researchers said.

The paper “Structural Defects Modulate Electronic and Nanomechanical Properties of 2D Materials” is published in ACS Nano.

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