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2010 Physics Nobel Prize Goes to Graphene Duo

Praise for one atom-thick carbon sheets

2 min read
2010 Physics Nobel Prize Goes to Graphene Duo

And the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics goes to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, now both at the University of Manchester, for studying single atom-thick sheets of carbon, called graphene. Graphene, skinny enough to be called "two-dimensional", might not have the good looks of fullerine, including the 60 carbon atom buckyballs, that won the 1996 chemistry Nobel, but these sheets have talent. So thin that they exhibit quantum mechanical properties, graphene sheets conduct electricity as well as copper, conduct heat better than any other known material, and are so dense that they can block helium atoms.

The two winners began their careers in Russia before moving to the Netherlands and finally the United Kingdom. In 2004, they pulled the sheets from a graphite crystal simply using adhesive tape--countering nay-sayers who did not believe such a thin crystalline material could remain stable on its own.

From these humble beginnings, graphene has made strides quickly. Here are some recent highlights:

Last month, IEEE Spectrum described new ultracapacitors--batteries' quicker cousins--which use graphene fins for even more speed, since the fins let charge on and off faster than other carbon tangles. This speed could allow portable electronics to shrink in size and weight.

The material's need for speed also appeared in transistor research published last month. A UCLA team built the fastest graphene transistor yet, a proof-of-concept device that switched twice as fast (300 gigahertz) as similar devices. Some hope graphene might prove a faster alternative to silicon chips in future circuits.

Nanometer-scale "bubbles"--formed from stretching graphene--can trap electrons in magnetic field doppelgangers (up to 300 teslas strong), researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory announced this July. This could perhaps usher in the age of "straintronics," controlling electrons' movements by deforming this material. 

In the spring, IEEE Spectrum reported that scientists gained a better grasp on why graphene makes nanometer-scale machines so slippery. They found the more of the thin sheets added, the better the lubrication, giving them a better understanding of friction at the atomic level.

Of course, this is only scratching the surface of this material's applications. For more on this Nobel Prize-winning find check out this listing of graphene articles and blog posts. Also be sure to read IEEE Spectrum's November issue, which includes a feature article on the material by Alexander Sinitskii and James M. Tour, describing in detail how graphene might work to compliment (and perhaps even overthrow) silicon in the future.

Image: Wikimedia Commons / AlexanderAIUS

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3 Ways 3D Chip Tech Is Upending Computing

AMD, Graphcore, and Intel show why the industry’s leading edge is going vertical

8 min read
A stack of 3 images.  One of a chip, another is a group of chips and a single grey chip.
Intel; Graphcore; AMD

A crop of high-performance processors is showing that the new direction for continuing Moore’s Law is all about up. Each generation of processor needs to perform better than the last, and, at its most basic, that means integrating more logic onto the silicon. But there are two problems: One is that our ability to shrink transistors and the logic and memory blocks they make up is slowing down. The other is that chips have reached their size limits. Photolithography tools can pattern only an area of about 850 square millimeters, which is about the size of a top-of-the-line Nvidia GPU.

For a few years now, developers of systems-on-chips have begun to break up their ever-larger designs into smaller chiplets and link them together inside the same package to effectively increase the silicon area, among other advantages. In CPUs, these links have mostly been so-called 2.5D, where the chiplets are set beside each other and connected using short, dense interconnects. Momentum for this type of integration will likely only grow now that most of the major manufacturers have agreed on a 2.5D chiplet-to-chiplet communications standard.

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