Last week, researchers at MIT announced that they used a new material called graphene to design microchips that provide significantly higher data transfers rates than traditional silicon chips. Graphene chip processing techniques currently being used in the laboratory will scale to mass production of compact, powerful communication devices within a little as one to two years, MIT says.
The MIT researchers used graphene to produce a chip that doubled the frequency of an electromagnetic signal produced by today’s technology. The chip also produced less “noise”–interference that requires filtering by supplementary chips–than its silicon counterparts, enabling more miniaturization and less power consumption in devices such as cell phones.
“In electronics, we’re always trying to increase the frequency,” in order to make “faster and faster computers” and cellphones that can send data at higher rates, said Tomás Palacios, assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a core member of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories in a prepared statement. “It’s very difficult to generate high frequencies above 4 or 5 gigahertz,” but graphene technology could lead to practical systems in the 500 to 1,000 gigahertz range, he added.
While other laboratories have been experimenting with graphene, MIT says that its work followed standard chip processing methods, and would reduce the time needed to develop a commercial product. The project has attracted the interest of “many other offices in the federal government and major chip-making companies,” Palacios said.
MIT may be jockeying for funding, but it sounds as if it has achieved a genuine breakthrough in taking a relatively new material from being the plaything of researchers to something that may show up in real products reasonably soon. With silicon chips approaching their physical limits, the announcement is promising news.