Friday, May 29, 2009

Electrons in Graphene

Graphene keeps coming up with surprises, but somehow a mass less transfer of physical electrons seems a bit of a stretch. This is the sort of discrepancy that generates new physics and it is exciting for that reason.

At this point, no one knows what it means, except that it promises to make even faster computers available. We are a long way from magnetic cores.

Obviously there is more to come since no theoretician is going to leave it alone. In the meantime we can only wait for clarifying data.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have measured the unusual energy spectrum of graphene.

Their work, published in Science, is said to help to explain the unusual physical phenomena and properties associated with graphene, which is formed of a single layer of carbon atoms.

Graphene is being examined as a potential material for next generation electronic devices. Electrons in graphene are more than 100 times more mobile than those in silicon, prompting researchers to consider the possibility that graphene might replace silicon as the basis for integrated circuits.

The research team believes this increased mobility is due to electrons and other carriers of electric charges in graphene behaving as though they have no mass. 'Although they do not approach the speed of light, the unbound electrons in graphene behave much like photons, massless particles of light that also move at a speed independent of their energy', the researchers note.

A special NIST instrument was used to zoom in on the graphene layer, tracking the electronic states while applying high magnetic fields. This allowed a high resolution map of the distribution of energy levels in graphene to be created. This showed that, in contrast to metals and other conducting materials, the distance from one energy peak to the next is uneven in graphene.

The work is thought to show a way to developing manufacturing methods for making large, uniform batches of graphene for carbon based electronics.

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