Research and development (R&D) of graphene products has intensified near-exponentially since the material was discovered in 2004. This has culminated in numerous new methods of generating the material including epitaxial growth, exfoliation, hydrothermal assembly, and nanotube slicing. The underlying reason for this plethora of production techniques is the widespread commercial appeal of monolayer materials, particularly graphene. It has outstanding electrical and mechanical properties which have often been touted as a solution to many of the world’s great engineering challenges. Whether graphene products can live up to this inordinate hype remains to be seen.
Graphene products are often tipped for huge success in the electronics sector, forming the basis of a new generation of ultra-efficient devices and wearable technologies. There is also significant research underway into the use of graphene in sustainable energy generation, yet there are obvious material limitations in each of these market sectors. One of the limitations that has kept graphene from a key segment of the electronics industry is that graphene is not a semiconducting material.
What are Semiconductors?
A semiconductor is a material with an electrical conductivity between that of an insulator and a conductor. Its resistance can be finely-tuned by introducing dopants into the chemical lattice, offering tailor-made electrical properties for advanced photonics and electronics applications. The exact purpose of dopants is to moderate the material’s bandgap; which defines the energy required to excite electrons within the molecular orbits of semiconductor materials enough for them to transition to a higher energy state. Silicon (Si) is the most ubiquitous semiconductor on the planet, forming the basis of many critical technological breakthroughs throughout history.
What are the Electrical Properties of Graphene Products?
Graphene products are famously described as having greater electrical conductivity than even copper (Cu), exceeding its nominal current density by a factor of approximately 1,000,000 times. This is due to the fact that graphene is a zero-overlap semimetal with both electron holes and electrons available as charge carriers. However, these sensational claims can be misleading, and it is important to remember that charge mobility will vary depending on the nature and quality of the graphene product’s substrate. For more information on the unique electronic characteristics of graphene products, read our previous blog post: Electronic Graphene Properties Explained.
Can Graphene Products be Semiconductors?
Graphene’s inherently high conductivity is partially explained by the lack of a bandgap equivalent to those of semiconductors like silicon. In its native state, it cannot behave as an insulator would, therefore, cannot perform the role of a semiconductor. New methods have been developed to rectify this, introducing a bandgap to graphene by forcing it to adopt a specific shape or through conventional doping. In this manner, graphene products could feasibly be used as the basis for a new generation of semiconductors, initially through enhancement of existing materials and systems and eventually as a successor material.
Are Graphene Products Likely to Revolutionise Electronics?
Considering methods of introducing a bandgap to graphene are relatively immature, it is far too speculative to suggest that the age of silicon will soon give way to that of monolayer graphene as the semiconducting material of choice. Instead, experts predict that silicon-based integrated systems for semiconductors are likely to continue dominating in the field of electronics for some time, with graphene entering the market as a complementary material. Importantly, there are still many types of electronic devices that can benefit dramatically from graphene that do not depend on the material acting as a ‘gate’. Sensors, interconnects, electrodes, and many other electronic components do not depend on a semiconducting capability. So, there is a wide variety of areas in electronics that stand to benefit more immediately from graphene’s conductive characteristics.
Graphene Products from Grolltex
Grolltex is an industry-leading provider of CVD-generated graphene on a choice of growth substrates, from copper to silicon. We offer the best-in-class substrate coverage and can generate high-purity monolayer materials for transfer onto substrates of your choice. Additionally, Grolltex is now producing a wide range of sensors made of graphene for wearable, biosensing, and new drug discovery applications. If you have found this post interesting, you might like to read about photoluminescence and monolayer graphene.
Or, if you have any questions about graphene products from Grolltex, simply contact a member of the team today.