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UK Scientists Make Transistor One Atom Long, 10 Atoms Wide

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-win-this-round-moore dept.

Technology 186

Bibek Paudel points out a story about the latest step forward in the development of nano-scale circuits. Researchers from the University of Manchester have created some of the smallest transistors ever, measuring only one atom by 10 atoms. The transistors are made out of graphene, which has the potential to replace silicon in the never-ending hunt for smaller computer technology. From NewScientist: "There are other kinds of prototype transistors in this size range. But they usually need supercooling using liquid gas, says Novoselov. The new graphene devices work at room temperature. Such prototypes are typically made by building one atom at a time, or wiring up individual molecules. Those approaches are complex and impractical, Novoselov says. By contrast, the graphene transistors were made in the same way that silicon devices are, by etching them out of larger pieces of material. 'That's their big advantage,' he says."

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eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23115854)


Eat my shorts slashdot !!

Re:eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23115916)

You be mighty fast on the draw there, gunslinger. You also be wasting too much time on this here nerd list.

Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (0)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115856)

This is a good step in getting faster and better computers... it is too bad it'll take about 10 years before it is anywhere near affordable! (think electric car technology)

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115974)

I applaud the attempt at a car analogy, but the hurdles to a practical electric car extend way beyond technology and even economics - it's almost all politics.

=Smidge=

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116050)

eh. for whatever reason, it won't catch on.

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (1)

ericvids (227598) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116104)

Which leads one to think... what kind of politics would be involved to prevent this transistor technology from becoming affordable?

Patents, perhaps?

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (5, Insightful)

bheer (633842) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116474)

Uh, no, the challenges to a *feasible* electric car are mostly technological. And no, boil-the-ocean schemes along the lines of "if only the government will mandate electric refill stations along the freeway" are not a political barrier, except in the minds of some activists. Any solution that requires massive up-front investments is a poor engineering solution.

The real problem with an electric car is that *storing* electricity is a hard problem. And unless your electric car runs on rails, you will need to store electricity.

Incidentally, cars aren't the only ones with this problems -- laptops and mobile phones have exactly the same problem.

Now, recent advances in nanotech will help batteries improve, and we may even see practical capacitor-type storage devices. And when we get to that point, the electric car will be a reality.

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116852)

damn my lack of mod points.

That is precisely what is wrong with the electric car. we have regenerative braking but we don't get the real benefit of it as batteries can't absorb the charge fast enough. We need to move beyond chemical storage for electricity. Once we have ultra Capacitors Solar cells, and Wind turbines can be more wildly used. As the energy can be stored.

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (0)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117198)

Keep your wild ideas away from my solar cells and wind turbines (what are you gonna do, wait til it spins up and chop someone's head off?), otherwise you'll be creating a legal barrier for their adoption for being more widely used!

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116332)

Erm, how about programming more efficiently and not using such high level languages that any practical reality is abstracted out? Why is the onus of performance always on the hardware side? Why is there never an equivalent breakthrough in software? "New software technique uses less memory, fewer CPU cycles and less hard disk access to move mouse pointer"?

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23117052)

As it often leads to code that is harder to maintain.

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117260)

That's a pretty poor excuse - if you just comment/document the software properly then it would be fine. A little extra time taken writing the program isn't much of a price to pay for the hours and hours of processor time and RAM/HD space saved by people using the application either..

Any software that needs to access the hard disk just to move the mouse (after loading the driver of course) is doomed anyway, no matter how easy it is to maintain :P hehe

Won't be coming out anytime soon. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116522)

Since this was found by English researchers, these won''t make it to the market until they figure out how to make the transitors leak oil.

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116638)

Thank you for sharing your apathetic and content-free opinion. We'll let you know when there is new shiny for you to play with.

Re:Cool, but call me when it is cheap. (1)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116786)

So graphene is the future of computers? Maybe we can sequester all our carbon that way!

1 hidden comment (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117316)

I cannot imagine an application that a single mini transistor is required, where a big one can't do the trick. Will kids have transistor radios dropped into their ears?

Orientation? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23115866)

One question...
How do you know it's one atom long and ten wide? maybe it's ten atoms long and one wide?

Re:Orientation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116044)

How do you know it's one atom long and ten wide? maybe it's ten atoms long and one wide?
Don't ask, don't tell.

Atoms only wish to have the same spatial orientation treatment as other particles.

Re:Orientation? (5, Informative)

transmorph (86987) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116124)

From the linked article:

"The smallest dots that worked as transistors contained as few as five carbon rings - around 10 atoms or 1nm wide."

Somehow that became 10 atoms wide and 1 atom long in the summary.

I know, I know - this sort of thing would never happen on Slashdot...

Wait... (5, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115868)

Shouldn't that be 10 Atoms long, One Atom wide?

Re:Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23115884)

Exactly!

Re:Wait... (4, Informative)

lixee (863589) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115896)

Not in electrical engineering.

Re:Wait... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116342)

You could think of it that way because you are a guy... but he article was submitted by a woman thinking "I am too fat"

Re:Wait... (1)

iknowcss (937215) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116542)

What does that even mean?

Re:Wait... (5, Informative)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117354)

It means "length" is the direction electrons flow, and "width" is perpendicular to that, even if that makes "length" smaller than "width".

Re:Wait... (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115920)

Then again, I suppose it's what you do with it that counts...

Re:Wait... (2, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116090)

Further, what exactly is a "liquid gas"?

Re:Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116622)

A moist poot.

Re:Wait... (4, Informative)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116890)

'Liquid Gas' is sometimes used to describe a substance that is under pressure and a liquid, but is typically a gas under normal atmospheric conditions (1 atm, 25C or something similar)

You will often see it in reference to Natural Gas, as 'Liquid Natural Gas' Since the term 'Natural Gas' is more of a formal name, than any descriptor of a chemical and its state.

Re:Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116150)

I'm quite sure you will find, upon second thought, that it's 10 atoms *high*, if you look at it from a different angle.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116228)

Shouldn't that be 10 Atoms long, One Atom wide?
No

Re:Wait... (5, Informative)

cibyr (898667) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116292)

I know you've been modded funny, but some people are probably wondering - when talking about transistors, "length" is how far electrons have to travel through the transistor, and "width" is the other dimension (effectively how many electrons can travel through the transistor at the same time). Resistance is proportional to length and inversely proportional to width.

Re:Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116990)

when talking about transistors, "length" is how far electrons have to travel through the transistor, and "width" is the other dimension (effectively how many electrons can travel through the transistor at the same time).

The cute thing about electrons is they obviously travel in two-dimensional space only.

Resistance is proportional to length and inversely proportional to width.

Then, I take it, width is proportional to height ...

Re:Wait... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117362)

I take it, width is proportional to height ...
Where did that come from?

Plus, if you read the article you'll see that it's the 'dot' containing at least 5 carbon nano rings (or something) that makes transistor that is 10 atoms (1 nanometer) wide, but the person doing the summary got r confused.

Re:Wait... (1)

wurp (51446) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117462)

Resistance is inversely proportional to the surface area orthogonal to the direction of current flow, which is presumably basically the square of the width.

Re:Wait... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116464)

I'm sort of guessing here, but how often do you cross the width of a bridge?

Pretty sure the same sort of thing is going on.

Re:Wait... (car analogy) (1)

krnpimpsta (906084) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116472)

Shouldn't that be 10 Atoms long, One Atom wide?
I didn't RTFA, but it could be 10 atoms long, 1 atom wide, depending on what the functional orientation is.

Car Analogy:
Say a car A is 10 feet bumper to bumper, and 6 feet side to side. We say that car A is 10 feet long and 6 feet wide.
Now say car B is only 3 feet bumper to bumper (Steve Urkel's car?) and 6 feet wide. Would you say this car is 6 feet "long" just because its width happens to be the longest dimension? IMO, we would call this car "3 feet long and 6 feet wide."

1 atom wide, 10 atoms long ?? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23115870)

heheheh it sounds like my penis!

Thick (1)

theophylact (570501) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115878)

That's one atom thick, not one atom wide.

Re:Thick (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116428)

It's not thick, it's just a slow learner you insensitive clod!

U of Glasgow Made Similar Nano-Switch Progress (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115880)

I submitted this in story form [slashdot.org] yesterday but also in recent news, Glasgow scientists have made a tiny switch that would make huge leaps in memory storage:

Scientists at the University of Galsgow have claimed a breakthrough that enables them to store 500,000 gigabytes squeezed onto one square inch [nanowerk.com] making way for some hilarious storage for things like cell phones and iPods. The scientists working on it divulged, "We have been able to assemble a functional nanocluster that incorporates two electron donating groups, and position them precisely 0.32 nm apart so that they can form a totally new type of molecular switching device. This is unprecedented and provides a route to produce new a molecule-based switch that can be easily manipulated using an electric field. By taking these nano-scale clusters, just a nanometer in size, and placing them onto a gold or carbon, we can control the switching ability. Not only is this a new type of switchable molecule, but by grafting the molecule on to metal (gold) or carbon means that we can potentially bridge the gap between traditional semiconductor devices and components for nanoscale plastic electronics. The key advantage of the molecule sized switch is information / transistor density in traditional semi-conductors. Molecule sized switches would lead to increasing data storage to say 4 Petabits per square inch. This breakthrough shows conceptually that this is possible (showing the bulk effect) but we are yet to solve the fabrication and addressing problems. The fact these switches work on carbon means that they could be embedded in plastic chips so silicon is not needed and the system becomes much more flexible both physically and technologically. Since these switches are little balls of metal oxide they are made of similar stuff to normal semi-conductors but are much easier to manipulate as discrete molecular units." You can read more about it in Nature's Nanotechnology publication [nature.com] . In related news, researchers have claimed to harness terahertz radiation using circuits [telegraph.co.uk] .

Another advancement in nanotechnology, thought I would post it here since it's probably not going to be used.

Re:U of Glasgow Made Similar Nano-Switch Progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23115960)

...making way for some hilarious storage for things like cell phones and iPods.

What's so funny about it?

Re:U of Glasgow Made Similar Nano-Switch Progress (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115986)

500 gigs on your ipod? Most people i know can't fill 30 gig of music they like. Unless it was lossless...

Re:U of Glasgow Made Similar Nano-Switch Progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116234)

It's 500 thousand gigs (500,000) not 500!

Or to put it another way, half a Petabyte, which makes 500 gigabytes look stupidly tiny! I read this article a few days ago and it's not often I go "WOW" at something, but in this instance, I made an exception. Half a petabyte in one square inch. Thank about that for a moment...

Re:U of Glasgow Made Similar Nano-Switch Progress (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116354)

What's so funny about it?

Obligatory Isaac Asimov quote:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny ...'

Re:U of Glasgow Made Similar Nano-Switch Progress (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116146)

we are yet to solve the fabrication and addressing problems


So, unfortunately, this breakthrough does not enable them to store 500 terabytes in one square inch.

Making things ridiculously small is a good first step, but without the ability to fabricate huge numbers of them side by side in an organized and connected fashion, it remains just that.

I'm encouraged that lots is being done with carbon; it seems this area is receiving more and more focus, which will hopefully lead to solving some of the fabrication issues.

Re:U of Glasgow Made Similar Nano-Switch Progress (1)

Rocketship Underpant (804162) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116328)

"Hilarious" storage? What does that even mean?

Re:U of Glasgow Made Similar Nano-Switch Progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116470)

gigs = giggles, ov coarse

Beowulf (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23115886)

Where's my Beowulf cluster of these?

Re:Beowulf (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117524)

Do you even know what a Beowulf cluster is?

This has been a while in the making. (-1, Troll)

Jack B. Nimple (1275372) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115890)

I think it was a bunch of students from cambridge university managed to get one twice the size [yahoo.com] just last year. Impressive stuff.

"which has the potential to replace silicon" (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115908)

"which has the potential to replace silicon". Talk is cheap. Show me the stuff. Seriously, that phrase has been around for decades...

Re:"which has the potential to replace silicon" (2, Funny)

beav007 (746004) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117046)

I got an early engineering version to test, but I can't figure out how to solder the damn thing to a PCB...

Science or Magic (4, Interesting)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115952)

Seriously, sometimes I feel the line between science and magic gets fuzzy. A transistor one atom by 10 atoms? That's on such a small scale that is so hard to comprehend that it'd almost be easier to hand-wave it and just say "it's magic."

Re:Science or Magic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23115972)

Hasn't it been said that any sufficently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?

Re:Science or Magic (1)

bdcrazy (817679) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116790)

Any technology distinguishable from magic is not sufficiently advanced.

Magic cannot exist in our culture (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117160)

Tell me, if you saw an animal (say horse or even pig) sprout wings and fly would you think it was magic?

You you immediately conclude that there is a mystical force outside your ability to comprehend that made that animal grow wings?

Or would you conclude that the animal was genetically engineered or that it was actually a robot of some sort or even that you imagined it?

My point is simply this, the idea that advanced tech is indistinguishable from magic ONLY applies to pre-industrial/technological societies.

This is a little sad, like losing some innocence but I suppose that is the price of society growing up...I can only hope that we are in the early-mid teen years right now and that we will "grow out" of this phase.

Re:Magic cannot exist in our culture (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117412)

When I pass by the farms on my way home from work today, and I see barnyard critters sprout wings and fly...

First, I'm going to open my windows to make sure my engine isn't fumigating me.

Then, yeah, I'm going to have to go with magic. That is probably more realistic than a farmer that can make robotic/cybernetic animals.

Re:Science or Magic (3, Funny)

wpiman (739077) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115980)

I think it is interesting it is one atom long by ten atoms wide. Isn't the definition of the long side the one that is longer?

Re:Science or Magic (1)

RancidMilk (872628) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116182)

I think it is interesting it is one atom long by ten atoms wide. Isn't the definition of the long side the one that is longer?
Heh... article buried as inaccurate.

Re:Science or Magic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116362)

In transistors, the current flows down the "long" side.

If you had a car that was longer from side to side than from front to back, the "length" would still be bumper to bumper.

Re:Science or Magic (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116532)

Who cares? Either way, she's still going to ask, "Is it in yet?"

Re:Science or Magic (3, Interesting)

UnHolier than ever (803328) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116064)

Worst. Graphene being 1 atom wide? Graphene [wikipedia.org] is a planar sheet with a honeycomb lattice. I fail to see how you can make a 1 atom wide honeycomb lattice. Unless what they mean is 1 atom thick, but then this is a 1 atom X 10 atoms X 10^6 atoms transistor. This isn't quite the same thing.

Re:Science or Magic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116196)

It's 1 x 10 nm.
That's about... err... ~10^1 atoms.

Re:Science or Magic (1)

Shaltenn (1031884) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116764)

Single walled carbon nanotubes may be considered to be graphene cylinders; some have a hemispherical graphene cap (that includes 6 pentagons) at each end.

From the same Wikipedia article you linked. 10x1 I guess would be considered a graphene cylinder. Such is the only explanation for the errata you mention.

Re:Science or Magic (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116072)

This is just in: "Future Computers Powered By Magic"

According to Mark Erlin of the University of Oxford future computers will be powered by magic. He thinks that we are now close on the threshold to what they call in technical terms "transphysical barrier to a multi-folded dimension" which is a complicated way to say "magic". "This is an amazing dicovery! This is probably the best thing since sliced bread!" says Erlin. "We have discovered this magic by studying very small transistors, no more than a few atoms large. We also found out that this magic works at room temperature, which was a complete suprise to us" says a very exited Erlin. "Who would have thought that we would come this far in computertechnology." Although the reactions from the scientific community are largely positive, sceptical elements have voiced their opinion. Mr Peter Oof from the organization of sceptical scientists Nurom indicated that these kind of thing are claimed on a regular basis. "How often have we heard about these kind of things? There is no magic bullet, just like there is no such thing as cold fusion". Erlin respons to the critisism with no worries. "Ofcourse people are sceptical, like all scientists should be. Yes, there is no such thing as cold fusion. But if you look at the testresults you can't have any other conclusion. If you don't believe me just try it yourself. And by the way, the magic bullet is planned to arrive in about 20 years. Together with you own flying car."

Re:Science or Magic (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116120)

That's on such a small scale that is so hard to comprehend that it'd almost be easier to hand-wave it and just say "it's magic."
Yeah, I probably created 150 of these before breakfast, but I just don't have the equipment to observe it.

Re:Science or Magic (1)

lsolano (398432) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116130)

I think the same. How can anything be that small? THAT SMALL! Incredible brilliant people.

Re:Science or Magic (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116286)

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

The recently-deceased Arthur C. Clarke.

Old news (3, Funny)

HetMes (1074585) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115958)

Pah! I discovered Miniaturization two years ago in Civilization II.

Re:Old news (1)

stjobe (78285) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116530)

Retrogaming, eh? (Civ II was released in 1996 and re-released in 2002)

Power consumption? (1)

EricR86 (1144023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115962)

A quick search said nothing about power consumption. If these transistors are really small, but leaky as hell with subthreshold [wikipedia.org] leakage then what's the point? The chip might have to manage heat/power in such a way that there's a large portion of the die dedicated to it.

Also, what "atom" size are we talking about here?

Re:Power consumption? (5, Funny)

Sinbios (852437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116016)

Since the material in question is graphene, I'm going to take a wild guess and say... carbon.

Re:Power consumption? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116054)

Also, what "atom" size are we talking about here?


Quattuorvigintillionoctium - its atoms are about the size of a golfball.

Re:Power consumption? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116092)

Here's [man.ac.uk] the paper (PDF). I don't see anything about power consumption, but I only skimmed through.

Liquid gas? (3, Funny)

jomegat (706411) | more than 6 years ago | (#23115998)

So... is a liquid gas anything like a solid liquid? Or perhaps a case of flatulence gone wrong?

Re:Liquid gas? (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116222)

It's like a liquid lunch, just more bubbly.

Re:Liquid gas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23117000)

Flatulence goes right?

alas (2, Insightful)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116086)

Of course, this being the UK, we'll give the technology away or sell the company that owns it to an overseas one for 50p.

I'm not impressed (1, Insightful)

cashdot (954651) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116154)

Researchers from the University of Manchester have created some of the smallest transistors ever, measuring only one atom by 10 atoms.
It's funny, how the word "create" is streched here. From what I read, there is no evidence that they actually build one of those. Rather, I seems that this transistor exists only in theory. Having done research in molecular electronics, I know how difficult, and in most cases probably outright impossible it is, to implemnent such a theoretical construct in reality. Nice sketch indeed, but how you are going to build it? Is it stable at higher* temperatures? How do isolate it from the substrate? How would build several of those?

* temperatures above absolute zero that are economically achievable.

Re:I'm not impressed (1)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116388)

I read the article as saying that they have actually built one and that it works at room temperature.

From TFS (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116452)

By contrast, the graphene transistors were made in the same way that silicon devices are, by etching them out of larger pieces of material.
They did actually build them, and they did it using the same kinds of techniques that current transistors use.

The new graphene devices work at room temperature
They work at room temperature.

If you want something to worry about, worry about power usage and heat dissapation.

Etching is good, but it's only one part (2, Insightful)

Kythe (4779) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116194)

This technology (and other similar developments using graphene/carbon) seems very promising. And I'm glad they could solve one part of the fabrication process using steps that are already in use (etching).

However, there remains another issue when using these devices to construct circuits: patterning. Right now, that's generally done with lithography, and though several ideas are being worked on, we simply cannot yet use lithography to pattern devices anywhere near this small.

Don't get me wrong: it's good that such technology is out there waiting for us once the patterning tech catches up. But until that happens, this stuff will likely remain in the lab.

The really impressive thing (1)

InfinityWpi (175421) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116270)

Not only did they etch this out of a larger piece of material, but even the larger piece of material was too small to see with the naked eye.

Of course, someday they'll find a material where a single atom is, like, an inch wide, and then we won't be impressed by atoms anymore...

Re:The really impressive thing (1)

gb (8474) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116648)

Not only did they etch this out of a larger piece of material, but even the larger piece of material was too small to see with the naked eye.
The fact that the graphene flakes used are only a few microns across is the real problem. Most of the current graphene work is done on exfoliated flakes, which is just a fancy way of saying that they got a lump of graphite and peeled sheets of graphene off with sticky tape and sometimes get lucky and get one big enough and thin enough to be worth playing with.

You can buy graphenen commerically - it's several trillion dollars per square inch though ! There are possible ways to make a wafer of graphene, but involves a SiC wafer, a very good vacuum and about 1600 degrees C and is still extremely tricky to do.

On the other hand, graphene is dead interesting - not only does it have the highest known electron mobility and very low spin-orbit coupling, but the electrons follow a dirac wave-equation and not a Schroedinger equation, which means they behave massless relativistic particles. So you can do all kinds of exciting relativistic experiments "on a chip".

OK, I'm picking at nits.... (0, Redundant)

glug101 (911527) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116282)

I realize this is trite, but shouldn't that be one molecule long and 10 molecules wide? Seeing as how I don't remember graphene on the periodic table... I suppose that since they are counting individual molecules and atoms, it's not a huge stretch to think that they might have these molecules lined up in such a way that they have a 1 atom by 10 atom geometry with the extra atoms in the molecule going into the 3rd dimension.

Not trying to criticize too much, I'm just a stickler for units:)

Re:OK, I'm picking at nits.... (1)

iKitten (936889) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116404)

Orientation is a relative concept. I used to work in shipping. When you do have to orient for some reason, the longest side is always the length, followed by width and height in decreasing distance. Oh, and technically it is on the periodic table of elements. You're just looking in the wrong place. Graphene's just carbon graphite.

There's such a thing as too small. (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116290)

At this scale, the transistor could very easily be destroyed by a cosmic ray. Interesting experiment, but I have a hard time believing that this development can find many practical applications.

-jcr

Re:There's such a thing as too small. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23116448)

I can just see the case mods now.

1: Dude, that is really cool that you put a window in your computer case, but why is there a dead cat in there?
2: Oh, that? That was there when I broke the factory seal.

Re:There's such a thing as too small. (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116450)

Yeah but on the other hand, your CPU becomes a FANTASTIC cosmic ray detector! I wonder if we could harness that for the SETI-at-home project...

Re:There's such a thing as too small. (1)

Djinh (92332) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116508)

The one who says it cannot be done should never interrupt the one who is doing it

Re:There's such a thing as too small. (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116520)

I suppose shielding is always an option.

For that matter: how vulnerable is the graphene crystalline structure to radiation damage? Carbon bonds can be among the strongest in nature.

Re:There's such a thing as too small. (3, Interesting)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116582)

In Eric Drexler's [wikipedia.org] book "Nanosystems [amazon.com] , he carefully analyzes questions like this regarding the possible failure modes of atomically-precise devices. The book goes through the math in detail. The short answer is that even with fairly pessimistic assumptions (e.g. that a single-atom defect created during manufacture or afterwards by cosmic rays or other radiation will completely destroy a particular functional sub-unit), you can still design highly robust devices.

The most obvious way is to build in some level of redundancy. Naively you can have dozens of redundant sub-units, and use things like "majority voting" to pull out the signal from the noise. In practice there are more elegant ways to do this (e.g. error correction). Many modern chips do indeed have some redundancies so that even with manufacturing defects, the chip still runs (perhaps with some reduction in functionality). Organizing the chip so that failsafe-checks occur during operation is certainly possible.

Again, check out the book for more details. The point is that these questions have been thought about and they are not insurmountable. The rate of defects generated from spurious environmental damage (e.g. cosmic rays) is low enough that it can be overcome with fairly straightforward engineering.

Re:There's such a thing as too small. (1)

Gotung (571984) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116692)

Not just cosmic rays, normal good old nuclear decay becomes an issue. Sure the half-life on carbon is very, very long, but it does decay. And just one carbon atom decaying in a microprocessor made up of these means a broken computer.

Nothing to see here... (1)

keoghp (457883) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116418)

Move on.

Proper terminology (2, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116478)

UK Scientists Make Transistor One Atom Long, 10 Atoms Wide

They're in the UK, so I believe the proper term for them is "boffins".

Room temperature? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116738)

Last time I checked, the internal temperature of my processors were at least twice as high as room temperature.

meh (3, Funny)

sootman (158191) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116814)

call me when they make one that's 1x4x9. [imdb.com]

Okay.... (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 6 years ago | (#23116976)

Now if they can scale it up to a factor of a few billion/trillion, and mass produce it, they'll replace silicon....
*Holds breath*
.
..
...
*THUD!*

Nobody move! (1)

stoofa (524247) | more than 6 years ago | (#23117206)

I dropped it on the carpet.
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