Scientists Build Worlds Smallest Transistor: Just One Atom Thick

Just the other day we were banging on about graphene, the new "wonder material" based on graphite, and now a British team has used it to craft the world's smallest transistor. It's just one atom deep and ten wide, and we don't need to tell you that that's teeny. In fact, it's more than three times smaller than the 32nm transistors at the cutting edge of silicon-based microelectronics: so it looks like Gordon Moore's law of transistor shrinkage has a bit of life in it yet.

Of course advances in semiconductor transistor fabrication will shrink the minimum size down from 32nm soon enough, but when 10nm is reached the cold, hard laws of physics will get in the way. And that's why the graphene transistor is important, since the research team at the University of Manchester says their transistor is already working at just 1nm.

It's made by taking a sheet of graphene, made using standard semiconductor fab techniques, and carving it with an electron beam. This creates a central quantum-dot with a voltage-sensitive conductivity, much as in conventional transistors. Amazing. The one flaw is that for now it's hard to produce graphene in large quantities: the biggest crystals made so far are less than 0.1mm across, and that's too small for mass production. The Manchester team thinks it won't be long until that problem is solved though. Will that mean graphene-chip supercomputer power in pocket sizes? We'll have to see. [Wired Science]

Trending Stories Right Now