IBM demos graphene circuits
Future neuron for the other carbon-based life form?
Researchers at IBM are showing off a high-speed switching circuit based on graphene.
In a paper presented in the journal Science today, Big Blue is taking its carbon-based transistor up another notch and making full integrated circuits.
IBM showed off wafer-scale graphene transistors back in February 2010, demonstrating transistors with a gate length of 240 nanometers and able to operate at a switching speed of 100GHz. Graphene consists of flat hexagons of carbon atoms interlined and only one atom high that are deposited on top of a plain-old silicon wafer.
Zooming in on the graphene-based broadband mixer circuit
In this case, IBM uses a multistep process (PDF), annealing the wafer sprinkled with carbon at 810 degrees Celsius, raising it up to 1140 degrees in the presence of helium, and then generating the honeycomb of graphene on the wafer underneath a flow of argon gas with the wafer baking at 1550 degrees. While silicon wafers are brittle, graphene is interesting for circuits because it is both flexible, transparent, and operates well at the range of temperatures where people live.
In its research project, which was done at IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, New York, and funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Big Blue baked field-effect transistors and inductors based on graphene in the heart of an analog broadband radio frequency mixer. The mixer is used in radios and other communications gear to take a signal and step it up or down to another frequency. According to the abstract of the paper, between 25 and 125 degrees the broadband radio frequency mixer runs at up to 10GHz and had very little reduction in performance (under 1 decibel) running in that thermal range.
The layers in the graphene-based mixer circuit
According to a a copy of the paper posted on EE Times, the graphene mixer was able to achieve a 27 decibel conversion loss operating at 4GHz, which is not bad compared to commercial-grade gallium arsenide mixers, which have a conversion loss of 7 decibels but peak at 1.95GHz. The graphene circuit did not need passive external components, so would presumably be cheaper to put into radios and other wireless devices, and could also potentially open up higher frequency bands for use.
What a graphene transistor cannot do – and therefore making it unusable for digital circuits of the kind at the heart of computing devices as they are currently architected – is switch completely off. The challenge, then, would seem to be making an analog computer out of graphene circuits. One that might fit nicely into the skull of a T-800 Terminator, for instance.
It is not clear how, or if, IBM will monetize this graphene research. ®
Turn it off?
Umm. It only needs well defined states to build a Digital Computer. Not actual "off". Though power consumption might be a problem.
An analogue computer is a Model of a system. It uses Analogue summing, log, Multiply, Square and Square Root circuits. Multiply by constant is an amplifier. Divide by constant is a pair of resistors. The number resolution is poor at between 1% to 0.1% full scale, thus roughly 7 bits to 10 bits resolution. The wiring decides the "model" or problem to be solved. Thus an analogue computer is not something for transistors that don't switch off so well, it's not a computer in the same sense at all as it has to be physically wired for a particular task. It's also inherently a "Data flow" processing device with parallelism and serial pipelines depending on the Process to be modelled.
There have been digital logic gates made with devices that don't fully turn on.
It's very power hungry, but was much faster than original TTL
A few late 1950s computers used it.
By the 1980s ECL type of design was mostly just used for Dividers from UHF or Microwave.
power consumption might be a problem
Yes, I suspect this is THE problem. As you say, any 2 producible and discernable states can be used to implement a digital logic circuit, but if those states are 'large current flowing' and 'even larger current flowing' then you're certainly not looking at mobile applications, unless the speed advantage is so overwhelming that the net power use for a computation is comparable. It could have applications in supercomputing, and in GPUs, though.
"between 25 and 125 degrees" - is that in a proper temperature scale, or that bizarro Fahrenheit nonsense?
How to monetise
Surely this was answered in the post - work out how to turn it off, or simply re-imagine how computers should work...!!
This feels promising, then again, its been so long since the last carbon nano-tube hoo-haa, maybe I'm just getting excited with graphene instead
Step 3 may come too late
Plenty of stuff to do with image/video processing has been around for years and years. Problem is, only recently has hardware been good enough to do it cheaply and in real time, or near-real time.
You should perhaps be more concerned about:
1. Find someone else with a vague idea of how it might work
2. Obtain the idea from them, and ensure their silence
3. Wait ten years
3. Patent it
and so on as you originally posted.