Physicists have produced nanoribbons of graphene — the single-atom-thick carbon — that conduct electrons better than theory predicted even for the most idealized form of the material. The finding could help graphene realize its promise in high-end electronics, where researchers have long hoped it could outperform traditional materials such as silicon.Carbon layers grown on silicon carbide conduct electricity even better than theory predicted.
In graphene, electrons can move faster than in any other material at room temperature. But techniques that cut sheets of graphene into the narrow ribbons needed to form wires of a nano-scale circuit leave ragged edges, which disrupt the electron flow (further reading: Graphene: The quest for supercarbon').
Now a team led by physicist Walt de Heer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta has made ribbons that conduct electric charges for more than 10 micrometres without meeting resistance — 1,000 times farther than in typical graphene nanoribbons1. The ribbons made by de Heer's team in fact conduct electrons ten times better than standard theories of electron transport they should, say the authors. This unimpeded motion means that circuits could transmit signals faster and without the overheating issues that hamper typical semiconductor chips.