Scientists have leaped over a major hurdle in efforts to begin commercial production of a form of carbon that could rival silicon in its potential for revolutionizing electronics devices ranging from supercomputers to cell phones. Called graphene, the material consists of a layer of graphite 50,000 times thinner than a human hair with unique electronic properties. Graphene's properties are remarkable. Impermeable to gas, strongest two dimensional material ever tested, with a tensile strength 200 times as great as that of steel, conducts heat better than any metal. Graphene's has unusual electrical characteristics, esp. its ability to carry charge carriers at speeds dwarfing those possible in silicon that allow superfast switching in data processing They can also be chopped into transistors, showing the way to mass production. IBM achieved another milestone by demonstrating 100-gigahertz graphene-based transistors, and set a new record at 300 GHz. And if graphene keeps progressing as fast as it has in the past few years, it will surely attract the immense weight of investment in research and development that has so far gone almost exclusively to silicon. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics for ground breaking experiments in Graphene!
Graphene is a novel material with very unusual properties. To be sure, silicon will reign supreme in many of the applications in which it is now found. But carbon, silicon's little brother, has new realms to conquer. And if graphene keeps progressing as fast as it has in the past two years, it will surely attract the immense weight of investment in research and development that has so far gone almost exclusively to silicon. If that happens, then little brother will at first supplement silicon and at last supplant it, as little brothers often.
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