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article imageOp-Ed: Getting over semiconductors – Graphene hits new high at UCSB

By Paul Wallis     Aug 24, 2019 in Science
Sydney - Graphene is about as obvious as the wheel as the Next Big Thing in computer processing. University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) has found a way of making it happen, it seems, and it looks good.
Moore’s Law has been pretty reliable, and reliably irritating for people looking for better data capacity. The demand for processing power has been growing exponentially, to the point that microprocessors are now basically a form of currency.
This new graphene tech is truly groundbreaking, and it may just finally solve the Moore’s Law obstacle course. I’m not going to regurgitate it in some half-ass form. Read this article on Small Caps for the core technical details and issues.
The new methodology developed by UCSB is redefining the range and scope of graphene to deliver high capacity and most importantly, much faster high performance. In a sense, it’s a way of getting ahead of Moore’s Law and staying ahead.
The new approach to semiconductors is based on the excellent conductivity and reliability of layered graphene as an all-round semiconductor. The technology is still some distance from hitting the mainstream market, but the picture is getting a lot clearer, and that’s the other huge deal about the UCSB research.
(The trouble with research is that theory often sends researchers on long, arduous journeys for decades. This particular problem has had a generation or so of theoretical issues to overcome, which is why the new graphene approach is so very important.)
The UCSB tech uses graphene to eliminate the negative effects of conductivity through conventional materials like copper, for example. Copper heats as it conducts, creating a finite level of capacity. Graphene doesn’t heat to anything like that level and is very stable. The conductivity is, therefore, a lot better, too.
Silicon wafers can get very hot. They can go up to 500C, maximum. Thermal factors directly affect processors, and also much to the point, such high heat can damage the equipment. This is the working obstacle which has been plaguing semiconductors since the beginning of the digital age.
In effect, silicon and copper are the limiting factors. At lower levels of demand, they were fine. Now they’re obstacles. This research may have found the way through, but it’s still not going to be easy to do.
Having proven the principle, UCSB now has to put it into practice. There’s still the little issue of getting millions of microprocessors on a chip/wafer/whatever it becomes. The processor sector would have to put a lot of big money into manufacturing to replace the silicon chips.
Now the fun bit
The beauty of this is carbon. Carbon is one of the most versatile elements of all. It’s an infinite LEGO set. It can be designed to be configured in any number of ways. Polymers, unique atomic shapes and sizes, from nano to macro, carbon can do it.
A few possibilities for graphene, when this tech gets going:
• A mix of “dumb’ graphene as the foundation material for the “smart” graphene (Plenty of other uses for silicon, anyway.)
• Specialised graphene circuits made for any purpose on any level of complexity
• New codes other than binary to speed things up a bit. (1 and 0? You asleep, or something?)
• Nano routines at the atomic level which can actually deliver processor functions
• Self-assembling processors on any scale, for any type of design
• Thousands of happy engineers designing impossible things
• Massive processor capacity for virtual environments
• Micro machines within graphene processors for all kinds of connections and functions
• A computer that can redesign itself in seconds? Easy as 3D printing
• “Organic” computers which can grow and regrow themselves and evolve using artificial intelligence
• Artificial intelligence with much higher capacities
• Insufferable gamers
• Super computers the size of a coffee cup
• A statue to the Unknown Carbon Atom (call her Bessie, sounds nice) is long overdue.
Break free of processor limitations, and that’s exactly what you’ll get. Good luck UCSB.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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