It appears that silicon will see another day. In an about-face move, IBM has revealed that graphene can't fully replace silicon inside CPUs reports Bit-tech, a UK-based hardware enthusiast site. The reason? A graphene transistor can't actually be completely switched off.
The publisher has Yu-Ming Lin from IBM Research (Nanometer Scale Science and Technology) on record saying, "graphene as it is will not replace the role of silicon in the digital computing regime."
Graphene is a recently discovered form of carbon that consists of only one plain layer of atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice. It exhibits high conductivity and other intriguing properties and has been widely popularized as the the successor to silicon.
Last year, IBM demonstrated a radio-frequency graphene transistor with a breakthrough frequency of 100 GigaHertz and English scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the exotic nano-material.
Here are Lin's comments that are to appear in an upcoming interview on Custom PC:
There is an important distinction between the graphene transistors that we demonstrated, and the transistors used in a CPU. Unlike silicon, 'graphene does not have an energy gap, and therefore, graphene cannot be “switched off," resulting in a small on/off ratio.
That doesn't mean curtains for graphene. Lin said that it may complement silicon in the form of a hybrid circuit to enrich the functionality of computer chips such as those used in RF circuits since they aren't dependent on a large on/off ratio.
Intel's director of components research, Mike Mayberry said that silicon’s properties make it a nearly ideal material. "The industry has so much experience with it that there are no plans to move away from silicon as the substrate for chips."
Graphene, in its current research state, may not replace silicon as the main material for building CPUs, but continued research should eventually lead it to a strong foothold in the future of nanoelectronics.