Graphene strands free electrons from resistance

Graphene nanoribbons (black atoms) grow on steps etched in silicon carbide (yellow atoms). Electrons (blue) shoot like bullets along the graphene ribbons in this artist's conception.

John Hankinson, Georgia Tech

Guest post by Gabriel Popkin

Ribbons of carbon can form electron freeways, potentially paving the way to new kinds of electronics.

In standard electrical wires, electrons periodically scatter off impurities, causing resistance. Single-atom-thick pure carbon sheets known as graphene have long promised nearly resistance-free electron flow, but no existing method can turn this promise into working technology.

Now, researchers have etched patterns on a silicon carbide wafer and heated it  so that some of the carbon formed long, thin strands. Electrons could speed down the ribbons’ perfectly smooth edges like bullets, traveling 1,000 times farther than in previously designed ribbons before scattering. The discovery could lead to wires that transport electrons the way optical fibers shuttle light, the researchers report February 5 in Nature

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