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Armchair-shaped edge turns graphene into a semiconductor

A big step for nanoelectronics: an international research team has succeeded in producing transistors from graphene ribbons only a few atoms wide.

17 Dec. 2017
Claudia Witte
Armchair-shaped edge turns graphene into a semiconductor (graphic: Empa)

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures could become reality in just a few years. Graphene ribbons only a few atoms wide, known as graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the nanoelectronics of the future: As nanoribbons they can become semiconductors and in turn possibly central components of nanotransistors.

The smallest details in the atomic structure of these graphene ribbons have a decisive effect on the size of the energy gap. Since graphene consists of equilateral carbon hexagons, depending on the orientation of the ribbons, the edge may be zigzag-shaped (metal, conductive) or an armchair-shaped (semiconductor). Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research , the Swiss Empa , and the University of California have succeeded in growing ribbons exactly nine atoms wide and a regular "armchair-shaped edge" from precursor molecules.