Georgia Institute of Technology, www.gatech.edu

Copper has long been used to make wires and the small traces used to electrically connect ICs and electronics on circuit boards. But as copper connections get smaller, copper’s resistivity rises until its nanoscale behavior overshadow its macroscale properties. One possible replacement for copper, say researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, is graphene, comprised of thin layers of common graphite.

The researchers have discovered that graphene structures as small as 18 nm in diameter are possible and would outperform copper at that size. Graphene interconnects would have higher electron mobilities, better thermal conductivities, more mechanical strength, and less capacitive coupling to other graphene conductors, compared to copper. Graphene can also be patterned via techniques common in the microelectronics industry such as electronbeam lithography. This should simplify the transition from copper to graphene. The challenge will be in using graphene with silicon.