Researchers construct the smallest microchips yet using graphene nano-origami

Physicists from the University of Sussex have created what they called the tiniest microchips yet. The little microchips are made using graphene and other 2D materials and a form of "nano-origami." The technique used in creating the tiny microchips marks the first time any researchers have been able to do this.

Researchers succeeded in making the tiny microchips by creating kinks in the structure of graphene to make the nanomaterial behave like a transistor. In their study, the team showed that when a graphene strip is crinkled in a specific way, it behaves like a microchip only about 100 times smaller than a conventional microchip. New construction methods are needed for microchips because traditional semiconducting technology is at the limit of what it can do.

The researchers believe that using the materials in their technique will make computer chips smaller and faster. The technology is dubbed "straintronics" and uses nanomaterials rather than electronics, allowing space for more chips inside a given device. The researchers believe everything we want to do with computers to speeding them up can be done by crinkling graphene.

Using their crinkling method, the researchers can create a smart electronic component such as a transistor or logic gate. Their breakthrough promises to be greener and more sustainable technology as well. No additional material has to be added to create the microchips. Researchers on the project also note that the new process works at room temperature rather than high temperatures using less energy to produce.

The researchers offer no indication of when or if their new process will be commercialized. Computer manufacturers in recent years have had difficulty increasing the speed of microchips in any significant way. Many believe that the limits of current technology have been reached.