Future chips will be pure carbon, since carbon monolayers fabricated into graphene nanoribbons outperform both the silicon from which devices are made, as well as the copper used today for interconnecting them. Look for graphene to replace both silicon and copper over the next decade. R.C.J.
Graphene carries nearly 1,000-times more current and runs over 10-times cooler than conventional copper interconnects below 22-nanometer line widths, according to researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). The graphene nanoribbons tested at Georgia Tech could carry as much as 10 billion amps per square centimeter. The superior current carrying capability of carbon formed into graphene nanoribbons is also combined with less heat build-up, offering a thermal conductivity of 1,000-to-5000 watts per meter Kelvi. The Georgia Tech researchers also claim that graphene nanoribbons will mitigate electro-migration which is an increasing problem for copper as line widths descend to the nanoscale. There are three hurdles remaining to commercialization of carbon interrconnects, according to the researchers at Georgia Tech: perfecting methods of growing monolayers of graphene over entire wafers (since today only small centimeter-sized areas can be easiliy grown in monolayers), fabricating vias to interrconnect graphene nanowires, and integration of carbon into the back-end of process on a CMOS line.