Graphene has already been shown to have a wide range of applications, but the most anticipated and profound area of potential impact is the electronics industry. The carrier mobility in graphene, which measures how fast the electrons travel in a material and hence determines the achievable performance of electronic components, is orders of magnitude higher than that in all existing semiconductors. However, to date, very few types of novel electronic device structures have been reported to harness this extraordinary property.
Researchers in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (University of Manchester, working with the School of Physics and Astronomy as well as the Centre of Nanoelectronics at Shandong University, China) have created a novel device which makes the most of these properties. The device, a ballistic nano-rectifier, uses very high-quality graphene which has a mobility around 200,000 cm2/Vs (close to the theoretical limit). With a single-layered structure, the device is perfectly suited to a construction from graphene.
Furthermore, the four-terminal design with output channels at right angles to the input terminals makes it possible for the device noise to be only limited by thermal noise. As a result, the obtained noise-equivalent power (the quantity that determines the minimum detectable power of a detector) at room temperature is comparable to that of the superconducting bolometers, which need to operate at cryogenic temperatures typically around 4 kelvin, or -269 degrees Celsius.