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Replacing Copper With Pencil Graphite

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the carbon-all-the-way-down dept.

Science 122

Late-Eight writes "A key discovery at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute could help advance the role of graphene as a possible heir to copper and silicon in nanoelectronics. Researchers believe graphene's extremely efficient conductive properties can be exploited for use in nanoelectronics. Graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon, eluded scientists for years but was finally made in the laboratory in 2004 with the help of everyday, store-bought transparent tape. The current research, which shows a way to control the conductivity of graphene, is an important first step towards mass producing metallic graphene that could one day replace copper as the primary interconnect material on nearly all computer chips." Researchers are now hot to pursue graphene for this purpose over the previous favorite candidate, buckytubes (which are just rolled-up graphene). Farther down the road, semiconducting graphene might take over from silicon at the heart of logic chips.

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Keep Erasers Away (4, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977229)

This will work just fine until someone decides to clean the conductors at their card's edge with an eraser.

Re:Keep Erasers Away (5, Funny)

CommunistHamster (949406) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977297)

Also, these things will be impossible to sharpen.

Re:Keep Erasers Away (4, Funny)

Mistlefoot (636417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977893)

I wonder how many people will test this by sticking a pencil in a socket today.

I'll have to scan you-tube over the next few days for clips.

Re:Keep Erasers Away (1)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978247)

Sorr.errr..y I forgot zitittizzit to recorded it zziit... Does anyone else zziit zziit smell burnt pork?

Re:Keep Erasers Away (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978549)

You laugh, but I'm getting to work converting my mechanical pencil into a nano arc welder. OK, you can laugh at that, too.

Re:pop a socket (1)

notanatheist (581086) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978601)

If I'm not mistaken the term is "popping a socket". Pull the "lead" out of the pencil, put two pieces into the socket (one in each side) the wrap tissue around another piece with the graphite sticking out both ends. Touch that piece to the two in the outlet and you now have a piece of tissue on fire to light something else with.

Re:Keep Erasers Away (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19978649)


http://www.efukt.com/view.php?id=196 [efukt.com] (remove white spaces if any)

Not made it a clicky for obvious reasons, but this is kinda like putting a pencil in a socket, except probably a bit more painful.

Another Use For Graphic & Electricity (2, Interesting)

Grakun (706100) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978545)

In my high school electronics classes we discovered that you can set a pencil on fire by connecting the graphite to a variable power supply. It'll spark a lot too, which made it that much more enjoyable. Lead from mechanical pencils worked even better, which resulted in a lot of burn holes in desks and our books.

There are even more advantages (4, Interesting)

John Sokol (109591) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977243)

Buckytubes (which are just rolled-up graphene) are also known as Nanotubes, have conductivities of almost 1000 WKM (watts per meter kelvin) Graphene sheets should also have similar conductivities. I expect it would also be quite strong under tension.

This will allow for much more efficient cooling of electronics, even more then Silicon on Diamond technology that is just starting to come out.

Re:There are even more advantages (3, Informative)

John Sokol (109591) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977379)

Sorry, ( I mean thermal conductivities) watt per square meter kelvin[W/(mK)] I use WMK
To put this into perspective Steel is around 60 WMK, Silicon 149 WMK , Aluminum is 200 WKM, Copper is 400 WMK

And some nanotubes where reported as almost 10,000 WMK

Somehow I thought Silicon was more like 60wmk but is higher according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon [wikipedia.org]

Re:There are even more advantages (3, Informative)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977913)

And to karma whore a bit Diamond ranges from 900 - 2320 WMK (type iia) being 2,320 WMK. The fact that diamons (excluding some blue diamonds) are also great insulators is worth noting as it makes it interesting for integrating into electronics; it won't interfere with the circuits but will happily carry away heat.

Re:There are even more advantages (2, Funny)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#19979205)

So.. carbon traces on a diamond substrate...

All we need now is a transistor made of soot and we can finally have the elusive all-carbon computer!

Re:There are even more advantages (1)

linRicky (961271) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977929)

It would be interesting if they had some figures regarding how it scales in comparison to copper.

Re:There are even more advantages (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19977877)

Nanotubes are different from rolled up graphene. Nanotubes are like straws, generally cylindrical. Rolled up graphene usually refers to a fruit-roll-up type of structure where it isn't a contiguous cylinder.

Re:There are even more advantages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19981157)

So - does this mean that all those sci-fi visions of rampaging robots calling their victims Carbon Based Units won't happen cos they're carbon based too...?

Re:There are even more advantages (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#19982963)

Yea, now they're going to say "Your time is over you 75% by mass water-containing carbon-based life forms, the time of the 12% lubricating fluid by mass carbon-based life forms has arrived!"

Way back when.... (5, Interesting)

Jhon (241832) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977293)

I had an atari 800 xl years ago (circa 1980s). A friend had spilled milk on the keyboard and a number of keys stopped responding.

My 'solution' involved opening up the keyboard and retracing the mylar sheet connections with a pencil. It worked great -- but I needed to crack it open every few weeks and retrace it.

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you are fairly clever and poor.

Re:Way back when.... (1)

ynososiduts (1064782) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977515)

Wow, how old were you? That's pretty innovative. I would never have thought penicl leads make good conductors. OFF TOPIC, but how many of you tried to convince your peers that pencil lead wasn't really made of lead but rather graphite (and therefor not poisonous)?

Re:Way back when.... (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977595)

I didn't realize that until after grade 6 some time, since I remember thinking a boy with a pencil stabbed hand was going to get some lead poisoning. I'd wager that a question like that on Who can outsmart a Fifth Grader type show, would yield nearly 50% who don't know what the material in pencils really is.

Re:Way back when.... (1)

stevey (64018) | more than 6 years ago | (#19981435)

I got stabbed in the arm with a pencil by my "best friend" when I was around 11 years old.

Even now aged 31 I have a small scar, with what looks like a tiny blue circle around it under the skin of my arm.

I'll happily claim it is my first tattoo! At the time I wasn't terribly worried about lead poisoning, but it is kinda neat how it has survived pretty unchanged over the years. I'd post a picture online, but it doesn't look terribly obvious unless you really look for it.

Re:Way back when.... (1)

JDevers (83155) | more than 6 years ago | (#19981653)

Same here, but mine isn't a circle it is a tiny 0.5 mm dot in the center of the scar on my left palm.

Re:Way back when.... (1)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 6 years ago | (#19983953)

Mine looks more like freckle or birthmark on my palm.

Nerds need to stop getting stabbed with pencils.

Re:Way back when.... (1)

Ctrl-Z (28806) | more than 6 years ago | (#19981683)

Unless you are just slow, it doesn't sound like the average fifth grader would know that either. Hardly fodder for a show about outsmarting fifth graders.

Re:Way back when.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19983017)

If you've actually watched the show, you'd realize that it uses questions from elementary school text books--the questions aren't necessarily common knowledge to elementary school students. For example, a recent question (which none of the 5th graders on the show answered correctly) was: The region once known as Mesopotamia is bordered by two rivers. One is the Euphrates. What is the other river?

The answer was the Tigris, BTW.

Re:Way back when.... (3, Interesting)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977885)

Not to spoil the awe, but:

I knew that, and I wasn't brilliant. I think I learned it from my old 200-in-1 kit manual, or early lessons in "how to use your ohmmeter." I remember being instructed to draw a line with pencil, and then connect the ends at different lengths across the line. It recommended striping the line multiple times, as well, and to check the difference.

I remember that! (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 6 years ago | (#19981149)

Those kits were great :)

I need to run out and buy some; chances are they won't exist anymore by the time I have kids.

Re:Way back when.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19984349)

OFF TOPIC, but how many of you tried to convince your peers that pencil lead wasn't really made of lead but rather graphite (and therefor not poisonous)?
Not me. I wanted them to think that they would die. Mwuhahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Re:Way back when.... (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977601)

Engineering is the art of making what you want out of what you have.

The best engineering solutions come not from large budgets, but small ones.

Re:Way back when.... (4, Informative)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977635)

The Pencil trick is also useful for reconnecting the bridges on the original Duron/Athlon chips.

Pushing the cpu up from 650 to 800mhz made *all* the difference...

Re:Way back when.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19977705)

Another fun trick is to stick a piece of pencil lead (graphite) in each slot of a wall socket. Then using another piece of pencil lead, wrap it in tissue with the ends protruding and place it across the two pieces sticking out of the wall socket. Instant fire. This works great if you are somewhere you are not allowed to have matches or a lighter. Not that I have been somewhere I cannot have lighters or matches but it works nonetheless...... :D

Re:Way back when.... (1)

Nexcis (962706) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977741)

Cheetos in Ramen noodles are really good too ;)

Re:Way back when.... (1)

rivetgeek (977479) | more than 6 years ago | (#19979203)

Cheeto's, ramen, torn up bologna, cooked in the hot water of a shower faucet.... It was still better than regular jail food. -(ex)inmate 1369.

Re:Way back when.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19979781)

But the great thing about prison is you have a regular PnP gaming group.

Re:Way back when.... (1)

ZorinLynx (31751) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978421)

So what did you do to end up in the slammer? :)

Re:Way back when.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19978755)

I was wondering who was gonna figure that out. I must ask though...... what did you do to end up in the slammer?

Re:Way back when.... (4, Interesting)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977987)

Or unlocking certain multipliers [motherboards.org] on your Athlon. . .I never actually did this trick as I used window defogger instead (more reliable as it is more conductive). I still have 2x Athlon 2200xps Bartons overclocked to ~3000xp equivalent and running as MP in a dually of mine. . .super cheap dual-processor machine with craptons of processing power back in the day.

Re:Way back when.... (2, Interesting)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 6 years ago | (#19981723)

I have a 2x Athlon XP 2400+ Thoroughbred machine using the same XP->MP trick. Though I used conductive paint, because the pencil didn't work for the version of the chip that needed the gap filling in instead of joining the dots on either side.

It's not as powerful as a modern Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (which is also 2x 2GHz, and I also own), and uses at least four times the power (and produces four times the heat), but I love it because I actually worked to build it instead of slapping together some parts.

Oh, and an interesting fact: A dual-cpu machine will run quite happily with two different speed cpus, but it screws up applications that use the rdtsc instruction as a timer unless they're constrained to a single cpu. Though the "/usepmtimer" boot.ini option could sort that one out.

Re:Way back when.... (2, Informative)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978235)

There was a time when you could unlock the multiplier on an Athlon chip with a pencil as well. When AMD went from the ceramic to the "organic" packaging, this no longer worked -- you needed a conductive pen instead, which was still possible, but more error-prone. After all, you can just erase a stray pencil mark, and the silver pen ink tends to spread unless you tape off adjacent areas.

I don't know if these pens were readily available (though I bet they existed) when you had to repair your old Atari, but one of them would have provided a permanent solution to your problem.

The problem with using pencils to fix broken traces is that there is a high resistance -- not so much within any one flake of graphite, but in the gaps between them. As the trace gets longer and/or thinner, that resistance goes up until the device just stops working. A single sheet or ribbon of graphene would neatly sidestep the issue this causes.


Re:Way back when.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19979913)

Milk?!?!? Dude, who drinks *milk* playing video games?

Re:Way back when.... (1)

SamLJones (930806) | more than 6 years ago | (#19984927)

I used to use mechanical pencil lead (0.5, if it matters) to short the contacts on a 12-volt lantern battery. Sometimes the lead would get really hot (melted through my plastic desk), sometimes it would glow, once it disappeared completely. I love graphite :-)

This might just work: (2, Interesting)

perlhacker14 (1056902) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977315)

Seeing as buckytubes have enormous conductivity, and are strong under tension, graphene should act similar, providing a far better replacement for silicon and copper. I do not think that the transition will come soon, but this is a great innovation and ahead of its time. I personally think that buckytubes should be looked into in greater detail before attempting graphene.

Re:This might just work: (1)

bdjacobson (1094909) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978539)

Seeing as buckytubes have enormous conductivity, and are strong under tension, graphene should act similar, providing a far better replacement for silicon and copper. I do not think that the transition will come soon, but this is a great innovation and ahead of its time. I personally think that buckytubes should be looked into in greater detail before attempting graphene.
Uh...could we possibly be any more generic?

Since when did re-summarizing the link's summary constitute something "interesting"?

More wishful thinking? (2, Funny)

thanatos_x (1086171) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977375)

I doubt I'd do anything more than pencil this in for somewhere 5 years... no make that 7 years... no, we've really almost perfected it this time...

Re:More wishful thinking? (1)

onetruedabe (116148) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978241)

I doubt I'd do anything more than pencil this in [...]
Ahh! The unintended humor!

-- :- Dabe

obama (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19977417)

would that nigger want to meet with the president of a country that was enslaving his family? or better yet gassing them for being independent of the government?
next he'll be promising to appoint bin laden to his cabinet if he's elected to make friends with the muslims.
that fucking whore! i guess his run is done. hopefully his entire political career died on the debate floor.

I hope graphene is expensive... (4, Funny)

ShaunC (203807) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977437)

I sort of like seeing the once-a-week news story about how some meth-head electrocuted himself in the process of stealing copper wire to sell for scrap. I'd hate to see the demand for copper go down!

Re:I hope graphene is expensive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19983081)

Maybe you should learn to use the potty, seeing as how you're posting to Slashdot already...

light measured in candles, processing power =? (1)

Zashi (992673) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977449)

So light intensity is measured in candles, will a universal metric for measuring processing power be named 'pencils'?

Re:light measured in candles, processing power =? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19977841)

That's already used for Slashdot's readers' penises.

but (5, Funny)

inKubus (199753) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977479)

is it carbon neutral?

Re:but (2, Funny)

saskboy (600063) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977785)

Not only is it neutral, but it's carbon negative. You'd have a source of carbon right from the CO2 in the air around production ~assuming they can use that carbon efficiently by splitting it from the oxygen. I think they'd just need a chlorophyl machine to do that.

Re:but (1)

nephridium (928664) | more than 6 years ago | (#19980357)

You'd have a source of carbon right from the CO2 in the air around production

Heh, now just combine this with nanobot and neural network technology and you'd have a self improving system, maybe even expanding at Moore's law's speed. You can increase the progress by breathing on it or doing sports in the vicinity. I wonder how many blows it will take until it becomes self-aware ;)

I think they'd just need a chlorophyl machine to do that.

I find the idea of organic circuits interesting, but chlorophyll or photosynthesizing nanobots will only work with sunlight so that would destroy the whole computer-case manufacturing industry as well as case [photobucket.com] modding [azcazandco.com] and we'd have to program the AI of the board to maintain a group of "military" nanobots to detect and subdue other organisms that interfere with the optimal collection of sunlight. I think it's cheaper and more practical (and more peaceful) just to use the power from the outlet (and put a few solar panels on the roof) instead.

Re:but (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978741)

No, but I'll sell you some carbon credits if that makes you feel better.

Also, by coincidence, your user number was chosen as a winner of a valuable prize in our no-fee lottery! Please remit payment of $5,000 to cover shipping and import duties to receive your prize valued in excess of $100,000.

I would cut down on the copper wire thieves. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19977485)

Re:I would cut down on the copper wire thieves. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 6 years ago | (#19979551)

I like the stories where the thief dies while trying to steal the copper. Unfortunately, there's far too many cases of them getting away with it.

copper prices (1)

uolamer (957159) | more than 6 years ago | (#19980605)

Can anyone enlighten me to why copper has gotten so expensive in the last few years. I know its not just copper, but it is the one that effects me and a lot of people the most. The only things I can think of is a war doesnt help, but still dont see that making that huge of an impact and I would guess China might have a higher demand than 10 years ago.. anyone got a real response?

Re:copper prices (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 6 years ago | (#19983887)

My understanding is that China and India are industrializing SO rapidly that their demand is much, much higher than it used to be, and this is the primary reason copper is so expensive.

It's a real problem because copper is essential for many things, especially electrical (wire, motors), and plumbing. I'm not sure what could serve as an acceptable substitute for it in either application. They've tried making plastic plumbing pipes, but for supply lines (where the pressure is high), it's always been a disaster because the plastic eventually degrades and leaks or bursts. Copper pipes will easily last a lifetime.

Earlier Work? (1)

stephentyrone (664894) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977605)

A group at Columbia (some people from Phil Kim's group, I think) published something along these lines in Physical Review Letters back in... May? I don't have access to my copies at the moment, so I don't know for sure. I believe that their paper references an even earlier paper (January?) on arxiv by a group from Thomas Watson. I haven't read the IBM paper, but I remember the Columbia paper being interesting.

Electronics kit.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19977747)

I used to have one of those 200-in-1 electronics kits when I was about 12. You know the deal, comes with a couple integrated circuits and mostly resisters and some capacitors, usually an AM tuner. Anyway, I found that if you hook its bank of six AA batteries up to two wires and touch the two wires to the lead core of a wooden pencil for only a couple seconds, it heats the lead core of the wooden pencil up so that it is too hot to touch.

pencils conduct electricity (2, Interesting)

Orp (6583) | more than 6 years ago | (#19977995)

When I was younger I used to have fun with a variable transformer that originally was used for a model train set. It had a wiper-type slider that would go from 0 to 12(?) volts from left to right. I discovered by placing the contacts across the graphite in a pencil I could heat the graphite until it glowed cherry red and caused the wood of the pencil to start smoking. Good times.

Re:pencils conduct electricity (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978623)

I used to break pencils in two, sharpen a point and shave the wood off the opposite end of each half. Then I'd tape the halves down with the sharpened points nearly touching, and put crocodile clips on the exposed ends.

Carbon arcs are awesome for retina burns!

Re:pencils conduct electricity (1)

Seedy2 (126078) | more than 6 years ago | (#19979989)

Was wondering if anyone would bring up the wonderful carbon arc experiments. In my youth I connected the lamp in my room, with bell wire, to two Scripto mechanical pencils. (.5) and proceeded to melt the interiors completely and trip the breaker the lamp was on. Annoyed everyone, somehow managed not to kill myself, made pretty light show until the lead burned down to the metal tip of the pencil.

Very not safe, but very entertaining.

messed up the radio pretty bad for a few seconds too :)

Ah, to be a child again and not realized I could've gotten killed doing that. (I honestly thought the air and plastic were enough insulation)

Re:pencils conduct electricity (2, Informative)

ross.w (87751) | more than 6 years ago | (#19979997)

Also possible to disable someone's car (when they had distributors) by removing the distributor cap and drawing a line from the centre to the outside using a pencil. High voltage tracks the pencil line to ground - car won't start.

Re:pencils conduct electricity (1)

geobeck (924637) | more than 6 years ago | (#19980313)

I seem to remember having an electrical experiment kit that included an experiment that used a pencil lead as a variable resistor. This was back in the days when you had to carefully remove the "lead" from the wooden pencil, rather than use a convenient mechanical pencil lead. Anyone else remember doing this?

Re:pencils conduct electricity (1)

Bazer (760541) | more than 6 years ago | (#19981271)

I made exploding pens out of the stuff. Two wires sticking out of a pen tube, connected inside with pencil graphite (the thicker the better). Stick it in a socket (don't stand on the other end) and watch the sparks and thick black smoke.

The maintenance man had to carry around a lot of replacement breakers when I was in primary school.

I call bullshit (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19978015)

Why is it "pencil graphite"? Why not just graphite? Is it because we're all too stupid to know that graphite is used in pencils? Or is there something magical about the graphite found in pencils that makes it particularly useful for making chips? I guarantee that there are no pencils filled with graphene.

Re:I call bullshit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19978427)

You were doing so fine until you said "I guarantee that there are no pencils filled with graphene". Nice blooper.

Re:I call bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19978635)

Did you actually bother to RTFA? Graphene is a form of graphite that's a single sheet of atoms. They don't make pencils with graphene, dude.

Re:I call bullshit (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978645)

Actually what we call "graphite" in pencils is actually mostly clay with carbon embedded in it. I don't think the carbon is even mostly in graphite form.

Pencil Trick (2, Informative)

Taleron (875810) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978143)

A common method for unlocking old Athlon and Duron processors was using a good old pencil to connect the bridges. They're catching on!

Re:Pencil Trick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19978253)

This is equivelant to the modern "ghetto v-droop" mods [xtremesystems.org] -- the article addressess much more complex applications :P

Cleverness will solve our problems (1)

LM741N (258038) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978283)

Imagine a huge coal burning power plant spewing carbon which is then sucked into a chimney next door at the semiconductor processing plant.

Re:Cleverness will solve our problems (1)

eam (192101) | more than 6 years ago | (#19981869)

No, this is how it will work: In a few years the use of carbon in electronics will start to cause shortages. Plants will start to die because they don't have the carbon dioxide they need for photosynthesis. Because electronic devices will *still* end up going to landfills no one will be reclaiming the carbon they use. Scientists will start talking about how we need to burn more fossil fuels to release more CO2.

Then there will be a long awaited marble [youtube.com] revolution in computing.

perfect traditional technology first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19978515)

is it just me or does it make more sense to emphasize reasearch in perfecting more traditional technology, like copper? IBM has already proved that copper is a viable alternative to aluminium in chips back in the late 90's, and as expensive as copper is, I'm betting it's a hell of a lot less expensive than chains of individual carbon atoms.

Huh? Getting Annoying (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 6 years ago | (#19978693)

Where did graphite pencils get mentioned in the article (yup, I even read it). Even Wiki has nothing relating graphene to pencils. /. is turning into a rag with sensationalistic headlines that have nothing to do with the article and often even the summary. The sad part is that the stuff might even be interesting without the "Rabbit Fur wrapped Cat5 outperforms fibre".


Re:Huh? Getting Annoying (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19978809)

Sir, Graphite is used in pencils, Graphene is just sheet of Graphite.

"Graphenes are the 2-D counterparts of 3-D graphite." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphene [wikipedia.org]
"Graphite (named by Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1789 from the Greek (graphein): "to draw/write", for its use in pencils) is one of the allotropes of carbon." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphite [wikipedia.org]

Re:Huh? Getting Annoying (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 6 years ago | (#19979219)

Sir, graphite is used in pencils. Graphite is made of carbon. Diamonds are made of carbons. Diamond pencils will now replace electrical wiring.

Gimme a break- it's still a stupid ass title, and you are just being cranky. I'd say trying to be informative if you were not AC'ing.

Excuse me while I fart. I'm not a researcher (0)

NullProg (70833) | more than 6 years ago | (#19979107)

Graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon, eluded scientists for years but was finally made in the laboratory in 2004 with the help of everyday, store-bought transparent tape.

Back in 2002/2003 my son used graphite (pencil-lead) to power an 16 light-bulb saltwater contraption for the science fair.

Is Graphene the same as graphite? If yes then why in the hell am I not getting paid by the government for the chemistry lab I set up in my computer room?

Oops, chemistry is fun. We don't need anyone to fund it.


Would make for one hell of a motor? (2, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#19979623)

IF you have something that conducts electricty that well, and could wind it up, couldn't you theoretically get a really tiny but super powerful electric motor? There's a lot of cool applications that could come from that. For one, I could have a DVD tray on my PC that could actually mix drinks, besides just hold them.

They should talk to the chip bakers first.... (3, Informative)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 6 years ago | (#19981567)

Ahem, perhaps these pencil-pushers should talk to actual chip makers and bakers first before speculating on the applications of graphene. Anything that's only one atom thick isn't compatible with current or any forseeable IC process. Chips have to undergo many heating, cooling, deposition, and diffusion steps before they're done. Anything one-atom thick is going to diffuse away in the process. You also have the reliability problem-- you need reliable connections, millions of them. Anything one-atom thick is going to have too many defects.

Getting from silicon to carbon. (3, Interesting)

Richard Kirk (535523) | more than 6 years ago | (#19981901)

Yep. They need to cooperate with the silicon chip makers. And that's the really interesting bit...

Carbon can be a superresistor, a resistor, a semiconductor, or a conductor just by itself. The big, conjugated pi electron clouds you get above and below a graphite layer have lots of electrons in a single ground energy state, much like superconductivity. There are hopes that you can get some reduced dimension superconduction in carbon if you an up the electron density a bit. You may get this inside a buckytube where the curvature gives more electrons per unit volume.electron cloud is You could do this by rolling up a graphene into a buckytube. Then carbon could do the lot, electrically.

Fine. Carbon is clever stuff. However, we have spent a huge amount of time and effort on silicon. It is one small step on the periodic table, but one great leap for mankind. When we solder a device to a circuit board, there is a whole technology involved in getting from the submicron geometries and tiny singnals to the submillimeter sizes and microamp currents for things we can physically handle. We are going to need a new technology to go from the microscale of silicon to the nanoscale, quantum world of silicon. This could be thirty years of pouring research into new techniques before we ever get a useful device.

If, however, someone can come up with some way of using carbon on silicon, then we may be able to start working on practical carbon fabrication techniques and make them pay under much shorter timescales. I had always imagined the first application of carbon as some memory unit as memory usually involves banging out billions of copies of the same simple element, so the development costs in designing a single element are allowed to go higher than elsewhere. However, here is another option: we can deposit carbon onto an existing silicon surface - not as genuine epitaxy, but just using it as a flat surface, the way copper currently does. The next trick might be to get the film to roll itself into a buckytube. We have got the connections from silicon to carbon, and just the beginnings of practical self-assembly.


Bah, Physicists! They got it all wrong again. (4, Informative)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 6 years ago | (#19981965)

Bah, Physicists and their QM simulations! They got it all wrong again. It isn't the length of the graphene ribbon that affects its properties, but the shape of its edges. If you look at benzene ring's molecular orbitals, you'll see that there are two ways to pack them in a ribbon. If they all line up, with resonant transfer going along the ribbon in a straight line, then you have metallic conductivity, with the electron just gliding across all the orbitals without hitting any gaps. If the orbitals don't line up, you end up with little dead ends here and there, which cause "turbulence" and reduce conductivity.

Now, the packing of the orbitals is determined by the edges because of their constraints on orbital orientation. In the middle of the ribbon, you have a pure hex grid, and the orbitals, which can be visualized as taking half of each hex and painting a large C on it (these are not the same as the three bonding pi orbitals). Try it yourself: draw a hex grid and try to pack Cs. To visualize resonance, push on one end of a C and see how to repack the resulting structure. In the middle, you have three orientations at every node, but at the edges you don't. The more edges you have, the more constraints there are on the packing, and the more likely it is that the oribitals in the middle won't be in resonance with each other in a given direction. When you push on a C in such a grid, it will push other Cs sideways instead of along the ribbon, causing "resistance".

There are two types of edges, familiar to tile game developers as the vertical and horizontal orientation. In the horizontal packing, the flat side of each hex is bordering the edge, in the vertical the flat side is perpendicular to the edge. It turns out that if you have horizontal edges on your graphene ribbon, it is metallic; if you have vertical ones, it is semiconductive (which is another way of saying it has more resistance). If the edges are not quite straight, which will quite likely happen if you are making your ribbons via CVD or duct tape or something, you'll see a mix of both behaviors, resulting in a conductivity somewhere in between full-out and almost-nothing.

This is the trouble with modern physics - they just don't care about reality any more. If they only drew a few pictures, like real chemists do, they'd have seen this very easily. Instead they waste their time on simulations that only give them numbers they don't know how to interpret. Sheesh.

Dad, where does graphite come from? (1)

bunco (1432) | more than 6 years ago | (#19982541)

"Pencils son. Pencils." Sorry. The article title is just plain silly.

Question... (1)

Bob-taro (996889) | more than 6 years ago | (#19982557)

From the article, it sounds like this only works when the graphene conductor size is a few atoms wide and "one atom thick" -- wouldn't quantum effects become a problem at that scale? Does anyone know or have an opinion whether graphene conductors could be used in a "classical" computer or only a quantum one?

What about housing wires? (1)

samuel4242 (630369) | more than 6 years ago | (#19983249)

I realize that they're talking about very, very small wires, but how about the big fat 12 gauge suckers in my wall? The price of copper is going through the roof. Is there any chance we can wire up our house with left over charcoal? I love to see the price of copper drop so we can go back to the days when a penny was actually worth a penny (or less). [nytimes.com]

Re:What about housing wires? (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 6 years ago | (#19983843)

Well my electrical engineering friend once told me that it is only the 'outside' of a wire that actually carries current, so (if that is true), then you could make the wire out of anything, as long as it's plated with copper or other highly conductive material and it'll work the same!
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