New technique could mean super thin, strong graphene-based circuits

Schematic illustration of single-atom-thick films with patterned regions of conducting graphene (gray) and insulating boron nitride (purple-blue).
Cornell researchers think they are close to producing integrated circuits that are just one-atom thick. The material of choice, graphene and boron nitride, are a single atom-thick layer of repeating carbon atoms.

The researchers have invented a way to pattern single atom films of graphene and boron nitride, an insulator, without the use of a silicon substrate. The technique, which they call 'patterned regrowth', could lead to substrate-free, atomically thin circuits.

Assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology Jiwoong Park, said: "We know how to grow graphene in single atom-thick films, and we know how to grow boron nitride, but can we bring them together side and side? And when you bring them together, what happens at their junctions?"

Patterned regrowth harnesses the same basic photolithography technology used in silicon wafer processing, allowing graphene and boron nitride to grow in perfectly flat, structurally smooth films without creases or bumps, which, if combined with the final, yet to be realised step of introducing a semiconductor material, could lead to the first atomically thin integrated circuit.

The research team is working to determine what material would best work with graphene-boron nitride thin films to make up the final semiconducting layer that could turn the films into actual devices.

Justin Cunningham

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