Graphene nanoribbons lay the groundwork for ultrapowerful computers


Graphene nanoribbons on silicon wafers could help lead the way toward super fast computer chips. Image courtesy of Mike Arnold.

 Smaller, better semiconductors have consistently allowed computers to become faster and more energy-efficient than ever before.

But the 18-month cycle of exponential increases in computing power that has held since the mid 1960s now has leveled off. That’s because there are fundamental limits to integrated circuits made strictly from silicon—the material that forms the backbone of our modern computer infrastructure.

As they look to the future, however, engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are turning to new materials to lay down the foundations for more powerful computers.

They have devised a method to grow tiny ribbons of graphene—the single-atom-thick carbon material—directly on top of silicon wafers.

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Near-perfect performance in low-cost semiconductors


Researchers redefine what it means for low-cost semiconductors, called quantum dots, to be near-perfect and find that quantum dots meet quality standards set by more expensive alternatives.

Tiny, easy-to-produce particles, called quantum dots, may soon take the place of more expensive single crystal semiconductors in advanced electronics found in solar panels, camera sensors and medical imaging tools. Although quantum dots have begun to break into the consumer market — in the form of quantum dot TVs — they have been hampered by long-standing uncertainties about their quality. Now, a new measurement technique developed by researchers at Stanford University may finally dissolve those doubts.

“Traditional semiconductors are single crystals, grown in vacuum under special conditions. These we can make in large numbers, in flask, in a lab and we’ve shown they are as good as the best single crystals,” said David Hanifi, graduate student in chemistry at Stanford and co-lead author of the paper written about this work, published March 15 in Science.

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New 3D printing technology will put electronics into just about everything


3D printed LED

Electronics, like antennas and batteries can be 3D printed. But LED’s and semiconductors have been elusive. You would need some other manufacturing technique to make them work, which limits what they can do and where they’ll fit. A team of Princeton researchers recently solved this problem, however.


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‘Garage ready’ industries fuel startup innovation


Fabless semiconductors

The advent of the fabrication-less semiconductor company was one of the most important events in the history of modern computing.  The story of fabless semiconductors is similar to the recent history of internet startups: various forces led to an order-of-magnitude reduction of startup costs, which then led to a surge of innovation.


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