High-energy electron bombardment. Photo: Mayank Shrivastava, DESE

The team of Indian Institute of Science Bangalore (IISC) researchers has made a major breakthrough in graphene-based transistor technology, which can eventually have such communication capability.

For the first time, the team studied how the overlap of atomic orbitals between carbon and metal atoms affects the graphene-metal interface. It has enabled them to invent novel techniques to engineer graphene contact that has the lowest recorded resistance to the external world.

The research team leads by Prof. Mayank Shrivastava, Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, along with PhD student Adil Meersha and co-investigators Prof Srinivasan Raghavan and Prof Navakanta Bhat; showcased its work at International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM), the world’s most competitive platform in the field of electron devices, which mostly showcases technology and fundamental breakthroughs in the field.

Graphene is a wonder material with many special properties. Chemically, it is only carbon, just like graphite which is nothing but layers of graphene stacked one a top the other, but its uniqueness comes from its structure. It is the thinnest and lightest material known, just one atom thick. Essentially, it is just a two-dimensional material.

“We were particularly interested in graphene’s ability to control flow of electrons at a speed several notches higher than the materials we currently have. Electrons in graphene behave differently than in any other material; as such, it has the potential to revolutionise electronics,” Prof. Srivastava said.

“Graphene transistors can potentially enable communication in the terrahertz frequency range, which is 1,000 times faster than frequencies used in today’s communication 4G or 5G technologies. It can also enable flexible, transparent electronics,” he mentioned.

“Graphene transistors are expected to be the enabler of THz technology– a billion dollar high end application market, which is still untouched due to unavailability of electronics to control and manipulate THz radiation. With this breakthrough, we foresee commercialization of THz graphene technology in the near future, which was earlier projected to be around 2022”, explained Prof. Shrivastava.

The study found that this kind of communication capability is also highly desired for communication between satellites, between spacecrafts and in interplanetary operations. Through this technique, we can receive data from Mars in a few hours with a THz link.

It can also help in detect a metallic object like weapon or a plastic explosive under the clothes, without penetrating the skin. Hence this is a technology of high importance for India.