The chips found in the best CPUs and GPUs on the market currently are all made out of silicon, but scientists are aware of their limitations. In order to keep scaling up the performance without damaging power efficiency, a lot of research goes into finding a replacement for silicon.
One such option might be graphene, which could potentially offer 10 times the performance of silicon while maintaining low power consumption. However, there’s a problem — it’s really expensive to make.
As reported by Wccftech, several companies talked about using graphene as a replacement for the silicon-based chips we know today. The China Graphene Copper Innovation was created during the China International Graphene Innovation Conference, and it seems that for the first time in years, something might come of these graphene-related plans.
Although silicon is popular today due to its high yields and acceptable production costs, graphene could certainly be better. It’s much, much stronger than silicon; actually, it’s reportedly 200 times stronger than steel. Despite that, it’s super lightweight. A square meter of graphene weighs less than a milligram. It’s also highly conducive, both in terms of thermals and electricity, and could replace copper in these futuristic chips.
IBM Corporation showed off graphene wafers as early as 2010, so research into graphene has been going on for a long time now. Back then, the chips showed transistor frequencies of up to 100GHz, but IBM said that they could potentially scale up as high as 1000GHz. Despite that, graphene has never been picked up for mass production, and the cost of manufacturing is to blame.
While we might be nearing the limits of what silicon-based chips can do, at least they’re widely available and much cheaper to make. Graphene-based chips are much more complex to produce, so it’s hard to say if, and when, they will enter mass production on a scale that could make an impact. Scientists are also exploring other, perhaps much more outlandish routes, such as making chips out of honey or using paper in order to produce printed circuit boards (PCBs).