EECS faculty members Tomás Palacios, also a principal investigator for the Microsystems Technology Laboratories, MTL, and Jing Kong, also a principal investigator in the Research Laboratory of Electronics, RLE, have developed a new technology using graphene that will enable future microchips to operate at significantly higher speeds than with today's standard silicon chips.
As reported by the MIT News Office today, March 19, 2009, Kong and Palacios developed an experimental graphene chip termed a 'frequency multiplier' signifying its capability of taking an incoming electrical signal of a certain frequency and producing an output signal that is a multiple of that frequency. In the case of the graphene chip, the frequency of an electromagnetic signal is doubled.
Current frequency multipliers are problematic due to 'noisy' signal outputs requiring filtering and additionally they consume a lot of power. The new graphene system with just one tansistor produces a clean output requiring no filter.
Palacios noted that the new graphene technology could lead to practical systems in the 500 to 1,000 gigahertz range. He stated: "I believe this application will have tremendous implications in high-frequency communications and eletronics." He is also confident that because the work which is still at the laboratory stage now is based mostly on standard chip processing technology, reaching a commercial stage will be just a year or two away.
Graphene, developed in 2004 and related to buckyballs and carbon nanotubes--also made of one-atom-thick sheets of carbon--is made in flat sheets with unsurpassed electrical 'mobility' properties. Jing Kong has been developing a method for growing entire wafers of graphene directly. Kong and Palacios and EECS graduate students Han Wang and Daniel Nezich are orking now to transfer the frequency multipliers to the new graphene wafers.
Palacios is reporting the findings this week at a meeting of the American Physical Society and a paper will come out in April in Electron Device Letters. The work has been partially funded by the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology and by the Interconnect Focus Center program.
MIT News Office, March 19, 2009 article "New material could lead to faster chips - Graphene may solve communications speed limit"