Electronic devices, from mobile phones to computers, could work much faster if they were made from the thinnest substance in the world, scientists from Manchester University have discovered.
Studies on graphene, a revolutionary material made of a single layer of carbon atoms, have revealed that electrons – subatomic particles that result in electricity – travel many times faster than in silicon, the basis of all modern computer chips.
The discovery suggests that it may be possible to create a new generation of super-fast mobile phones and computers based on graphene.
Professor Kostya Novoselov of Manchester University, who shared last year's Nobel prize in physics with colleague Andre Geim for their work on graphene, said research on layers of the material held in a vacuum has shown that electrons behave very differently when travelling through graphene.
"Electrons in graphene have huge mobility, they travel very fast. It's quite a big result in terms of the physics and it may have some implications in terms of potential applications," Professor Novoselov said.
Professor Geim and Professor Novolosev discovered graphene by using Scotch tape to peel away layers of carbon from a piece of graphite (pencil lead).
They were left with a two-dimensional film of carbon, one atom thick.
The carbon atoms are linked as a single molecule arranged in a hexagonal lattice.
Graphene possesses a number of unique properties, such as extremely high electron and thermal conductivities due to very high velocities of electrons and high quality of the crystals, in addition to mechanical strength.