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3/23/2009
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MIT Graphene Chip Could Reach 1,000 Gigahertz

Made of a one-atom-thick honeycomb lattice of carbon, the material could boost clock speeds in future electronics.

MIT researchers claim that an experimental material called graphene may be able to boost the clock speed of computer chips into the 500-GHz to 1,000-GHz range.

According to a report issued by the MIT news office last week, the research findings will be discussed in a paper in the May issue of Electron Device Letters. They also were described last week at the American Physical Society meeting by Tomas Palacios, assistant professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).

Graphene is a form of pure carbon that was identified in 2004. It's essentially a one-atom-thick honeycomb lattice of carbon. Since the discovery of graphene, researchers at various institutions have been exploring possible uses for the substance. Palacios believes it will play a key role in future electronics.

The scientists at MIT EECS -- Palacios; assistant professor Jing Kong; and two of their students, Han Wang and Daniel Nezich -- have constructed an experimental graphene chip capable of multiplying electrical signal frequencies.

While frequency multiplication technology is used in current electronics, these systems generate noisy signals and require significant filtering and power, according to the MIT news service. The graphene chip uses only a single transistor and its output is clean, requiring no filtering.

Palacios said the technology could be commercialized in a year or two. The research is being funded by the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology and by the Interconnect Focus Center program, and is being followed both in the federal government and by private-sector chip companies.

Looking ahead, MIT's researchers are trying to develop a way to grow graphene wafers suitable for use in electronic manufacturing.


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