Texas State Updates: Nanotechnology

New electronics material
comes closer to reality

A scanning electron microscope picture shows the structure of graphene. (Photo courtesy the University of Houston, via Purdue University)

A team of researchers, including Texas State University’s Qingkai Yu, have developed a method for creating a single-atom-thick material that someday could replace silicon in high-performance electronic devices.

The nanotechnology study was the result of work done at Texas State, Purdue University, the University of Houston, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratories and Carl Zeiss SMT Inc.

Findings are detailed in a research paper co-authored by Yu that appeared online this week and will be published in the June issue of the journal Nature Materials. It first was reported by Purdue.

The process involves creating single-crystal arrays of a material called graphene, one-atom-thick layers of carbon that conduct electricity with little resistance or heat. An array made with graphene could be used to make high-speed transistors and integrated circuits that consume less energy than today’s silicon electronics.

The new findings represent an advance toward mass production of single crystals of the material.

The hexagonal single crystals are initiated from graphite “seeds” and then grown on a copper foil inside a chamber containing methane gas with a process called “chemical vapor deposition.” Yu, an assistant professor in the Ingram School of Engineering, invented the seeded growth method.

“Using these seeds, we can grow an ordered array of thousands or millions of single crystals of graphene,” said Yu, the author of the research paper. “We hope that industry will look at these findings and consider the ordered arrays as a possible means of fabricating electronic devices.”

Other researchers have grown single crystals of graphene, but no others have demonstrated how to create ordered arrays, or patterns that could be used to fabricate commercial electronic devices and integrated circuits.

“Graphene isn’t there yet, in terms of high quality mass production like silicon, but this is a very important step in that direction,” said Yong P. Chen, a corresponding author for the new study and Miller Family Assistant Professor of Nanoscience and Physics at Purdue.

The paper was authored by Yu and Purdue graduate student Luis A. Jauregui, Houston graduate student Wei Wu, Purdue graduate student Robert Colby, and Purdue postdoctoral researcher Jifa Tian, along with 12 other researchers including Stach and Chen.

The research was supported through a variety of funding sources, including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, IBM Inc., the Welch Foundation, the Miller Family Endowment and Midwest Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery.

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