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Graphene Transistors (Terra Futura)

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A transistor made out of graphene was much faster than a transistor made out of silicon. When the technology came into the mainstream, along with carbon nanotube transistors, graphene transistors made computers a whole lot faster than they were with tri-gate transistors.

(Note: The background section uses the same words from the background section of the carbon nanotube page of Terra Futura to save time.)

Background

The story of the computer is the story of the shrinking switch. The earliest electronic computers such as the ENIAC used vacuum tubes as switches. The ENIAC was a mainframe computer which was so large it fit an entire room or more. During World War II, President Roosevelt wanted something smaller and more efficient than a vacuum tube. Finally, in 1947, the transistor was invented. Early transistors used germanium, but in 1954, they started using silicon. As transistor shrunk farther, there came a tyranny of numbers. The solution came from two men named Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce. It was the integrated circuit. Robert Noyce, of course, would become one of the founders of Intel along with Gordon Moore who predicted that transistors would shrink in half every two years. This led to the invention of the microprocessor and the personal computer. Of course, Moore's Law was not going to last forever. A replacement for silicon was needed.

With 22 nm, Intel decided that continued shrinking would only work for so long. The scientists there were determined to push silicon to the absolute limit. One of the main goals for Ivy Bridge was to have as much current as possible in the "ON" state and as close as possible to zero in the "OFF" state and to switch rapidly between the two states. The solution was to replace the two-dimensional stream with one or more three-dimensional fins. This was the tri-gate transistor. Power consumption was reduced by 50%, and speed was increased by 37 %. The tri-gate transistor was obviously more efficient than a conventional planar transistor. The tri-gate transistor would become the dominant form of transistor up until 2022 when silicon transistors reached 5 nm and could be shrunken no more. They were replaced with other semiconductors such as carbon nanotubes and graphene.

Description

Tech Level: 10

When graphene was discovered in 2004, one of the first applications envisioned for it was for transistors. Graphene responded heavily to perpendicular external electric fields. This made graphene an ideal replacement for silicon alongside carbon nanotubes. However, there was one problem. It was not the fact that tape was to make graphene. That was the easy part. Mono-layer graphene which was one atom thick did not have all the nooks and crannies that silicon had for turning a transistor on or off. The solution was bi-layer graphene. It was not as simple as just putting one layer of graphene on top of another. The top layer had to be turned as well. By 2020, the technology was perfected. Graphene transistors were more common than carbon nanotube transistors. The nooks and crannies in bi-layer graphene allowed electrons to move near the speed of light. The amount of energy was as close to infinity as it could possibly get in an electron. Graphene chips could be used for almost anything from smart highway to a miniature bookstore. Graphene marked the transition from classical computers to quantum computers.

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