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Researchers grow semiconductors on graphene

September 12, 2012 // Dylan McGrath

Researchers grow semiconductors on graphene

A group of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have patented and are commercializing a technology for growing gallium arsenide (GaAs) nanowires on graphene, a breakthrough that could help pave the way for flexible, self-powered electronics integrated into everything from clothing to notepads.

Researchers believe that semiconductors grown on graphene will eventually form the basis for new types of devices and could fundamentally change the semiconductor industry.

NTNU's patented hybrid material offers excellent optoelectronic properties, according to Helge Weman, a professor at NTNU's department of electronics and telecommunications. "We have managed to combine low cost, transparency and flexibility in our new electrode," said Weman, who is also a co-founder and chief technology officer of the company created to commercialize the research, CrayoNano AS.

The NTNU breakthrough was recently described in Nano Letters, a U.S.-based research journal. The patented method of growing semiconductor nanowires on atomically thin graphene uses molecular beam epitaxy to grow the nanowires, according to NTNU.

"We do not see this as a new product," Weman said through a statement. "This is a template for a new production method for semiconductor devices. We expect solar cells and light emitting diodes to be first in line when future applications are planned."

Weman said the NTNU technology "fits perfectly" with the production machinery already in place at companies like IBM and Samsung, which are working on methods for using graphene as a replacement for silicon in electronics and for new applications like flexible touchscreens for mobile phones. "We make it easy for them to upgrade consumer electronics to a level where design has no limits," Weman said.

The researchers envision the possibility of nanowire solar cells, which potentially could be efficient, cheap and flexible. The researchers also envision the technology being used to create self-powered nanomachines and advanced 3-D ICs built on graphene and semiconductor nanowires, enabling smaller and more efficient electronics.

"Semiconductors grown on graphene could become the basis for new types of device systems, and could transform the semiconductor industry by introducing graphene as a preferred substrate for many applications," Weman said.

NTNU said the research underpinning this latest breakthrough has been supported since 2007 by the Research Council of Norway. The technology has been patented and spun off as CrayoNano (Trondheim, Norway), the university said.

CrayoNano has produced a video describing the technology.

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