IBM researchers create the world's first graphene integrated circuit

If brought to market, the first graphene integrated circuit could improve cell phone communication as well as airport security.

After British researchers discovered graphene in 2004, researchers have made nanometer sized transistors: No doubt, its electronic and optical properties, chemical, thermal, and mechanical properties have garnered serious attention from academics and industry professionals alike. For the first time though, IBM researchers have gone a step further in putting graphene in electronic hardware: They built a wafer-sized graphene integrated circuit.

Yu-ming Lin, IBM researcher, told SmartPlanet that it is the first step - a baby step - that might lead to a more complicated, sophisticated devices. Right now, the chip can operate at up to 10 gigahertz, but it can be made to operate at higher frequencies to enable military communication or used for advanced airport security technologies.

Graphene has been widely researched and there's been a lot of hype of its applications, but fabricating single layers of carbon atoms hasn't been easy. IBM researchers have been working on fabricating a wafer covered in metal and graphene for a year, and after many iterations, they were able to make it accurately while maintaining its desired properties.

The new kind of circuit consists of graphene field-effect transistor and inductors on a single silicon carbide wafer. The researchers showed the circuit performed mixing by detecting differences in frequency for communication.

"We are bridging the gap between scientific interest and [what it needs before it is] introduced into the market," Lin said. The research was reported in the journal, Science.

The speed of data transmission depends on how fast electrons move in a transistor. Electrons move through graphene much faster than other types of semiconductor materials. A graphene-integrated circuit could allow communication to happen more quickly - which could be useful for military communications.

This post was originally published on