Norwegian researchers have patented a new technique for growing semiconductor nanowires onto graphene.
The scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology say the chip industry could be transformed by using graphene as a preferred substrate for many applications, creating the basis for new types of devices.
Professor Helge Weman, of the university's department of Electronics and Telecommunications, said the announcement "envisions flexible self-powered consumer electronics integrated into everything from clothes to notepads, and of course traditional cell phones, tablets and exercise accessories".
This technique should make it possible to make new types of device, the researchers say
The technique employs molecular beam epitaxy to grow gallium arsenide nanowires onto a graphene substrate.
Using the molecular beam device, the researchers heat a gallium source, which is directed at the atom-thin graphene. The gallium atoms tend to form droplets on the surface of the carbon and within those droplets also match the hexagonal structure of the carbon atoms in the graphene sheet.
Once the droplets are formed, the second element, arsenic, is added to the mix so that both gallium and arsenic are being beamed towards the gallium droplets.
The two elements combine inside the droplets, also forming a hexagonal lattice that grows up from beneath the gallium droplet to a height of about a micrometre within a few minutes.
The researchers point out that because the substrate is graphene, it is much thinner than conventional materials. Not only is this cheaper, it also comes with the many benefits of graphene. It is flexible, transparent, and conductive. This should make it possible to make new types of device, the researchers say.
Weman is the co-founder and CTO of CrayoNano, a new company formed specifically to commercialise the research work, which has been published in ACS NanoLetters.
"We do not see this as a new product," Weman said in the announcement. "This is a template for a new production method for semiconductor devices. We expect solar cells and light-emitting diodes to be first in line when future applications are planned."