In the world of electronics, smaller, cheaper and faster computer chips means better. Silicon has been popularized for a long time as a material used in making chips. As scientists continuously improve building smaller and higher speed chips, there comes a certain point that heat and other interfering factors interrupt some functions of silicon chips.
The primary running unit on a chip is the transistor. Transistors function as tiny gates for electric signals capable of amplification. At present, a promising technology may address the means for building smaller yet faster transistors with less power consumption. Stanford chemical engineering professor Zhenan Bao with her co-authors, former post-doctoral fellows Fung Ling Yap and Anatoliy Sokolov revealed the procedure of using DNA as a model to assemble the new generation of electronic chips based on this known wonder material-graphene, instead of silicon.
Bao and her colleagues believe that graphene’s physical and electrical properties could provide a very fast chip requiring only very little amount of power. Due to such thinness of graphene- one atom thick- and 20-50 atoms width, they came up with the idea of using DNA, which chemically contains carbon atoms, to provide a template for the graphene synthesis. DNA’s physical characteristics and organizational system let scientist assemble the graphene template proficiently.
The Stanford team initiated the process by dipping a platter of silicon into a DNA rich solution then stretching out DNA strands by combing these homogenously straight. Afterwards, DNA on the platter was treated with a copper salt solution where copper ions were ingested into the DNA. The copper-doped DNA was then heated and bathed in hydrocarbon methane gas. The heat triggered in this procedure releases some carbon atoms which are formed into pure-carbon honeycomb of graphene.
According to Bao, the process is not yet perfect as not all of carbon atoms formed into honeycomb structures- some clustered into irregular patterns. Nevertheless, this low-cost technique, has great potential and could possibly replace silicon.