The Graphene Flagship is developing novel technologies based on graphene and related materials (GRMs) such as transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), semiconductor materials that can be separated into ultra-thin sheets just a few atoms thick. Due to their thin, flexible nature and their excellent electrical properties at compact dimensions, GRMs are promising for compact and flexible electronic devices.
Researchers from the Graphene Flagship, working at the TU Vienna in Austria, have designed and fabricated the first microprocessors based on GRMs. Using transistors made from the TMD molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), the microprocessors are capable of 1-bit logic operations and the design is scalable to multi-bit operations. With the drive towards smart objects and the Internet of Things, the microprocessors hold promise for integrating computational power into everyday objects and surfaces.
Building Blocks of Computing
Microprocessors are a central part of modern electronics, from watches to smartphones and supercomputers. Based on transistors, logic operations are performed through a series of input and output cycles, according to instructions stored in a memory unit. Modern microprocessors are based almost exclusively on silicon, but this technology cannot be made flexible. The ultra-thin MoS2 transistors are inherently flexible and compact, so this result could be directly translated into fully flexible electronic devices, for example, wearable phones or computers, or for wider use in the Internet of Things. “In general, being a flexible material there are new opportunities for novel applications. One could combine these processor circuits with light emitters that could also be made with MoS2 to make flexible displays and e-paper, or integrate them for logic circuits in smart sensors,” said Thomas Mueller, who led the work at TU Vienna.
The thinness of the MoS2 means that the transistors are highly responsive. “In principle, it’s an advantage to have a thin material for a transistor. The thinner the material, the better the electrostatic control of the transistor channel, and the smaller the power consumption,” said Mueller. The advantage of thin microprocessors means that low-powered computers could be integrated into everyday objects without adding bulk.
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Source: Graphene Flagship