National Physical Laboratory

Graphene breakthrough


Graphene device
Graphene, only one atom thick, climbs terraces
on the surface of a silicone carbide substrate.
This picture of a graphene device was taken
with an atomic force microscope by NPL's
Dr Olga Kazakova

A collaborative research project has brought the world a step closer to producing a new material on which future nanotechnology could be based. Researchers across Europe, including NPL, have demonstrated how an incredible material, graphene, could hold the key to the future of high-speed electronics, such as micro-chips and touchscreen technology.


Graphene is a form of carbon made up of a single layer of atoms arranged in a honeycomb shaped lattice. Despite being one atom thick and chemically simple, graphene is extremely strong and highly conductive, making it ideal for high-speed electronics, photonics and beyond. Graphene has long shown potential, but has previously only been produced on a very small scale, limiting how well it could be measured, understood and developed.


A paper published in Nature Nanotechnology explains how researchers produced graphene to a size and quality where it can be practically developed, and successfully measured its electrical characteristics.

These significant breakthroughs overcome some of the biggest barriers to scaling up the technology.

The universal standard of the electrical resistance is given by the quantum Hall effect, it is realised in conventional semiconductors, such as silicon or Gallium arsenide.The NPL team proved that graphene, when produced at a sufficient size and quality, shows the quantum Hall effect to the same accuracy as conventional semiconductors, but also at much higher temperatures. It means that graphene has now joined the elite of electronic materials. These results will strengthen the electronics industry confidence in the potential of graphene as a viable alternative to conventional semiconductors.

NPL's research paves the way to even higher precision electrical standards based on graphene. It also means that in the future these standards could be used more widely as more laboratories can achieve the necessary conditions.

For for further information, please contact Alexander Tzalenchuk

Find out more about NPL's research into Quantum Phenomena

Last Updated: 16 Apr 2012
Created: 10 Jan 2011


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