IBM has built a graphene circuit and used it to send a text message with wireless technology.
Graphene research is moving forward in small leaps. It has gone from evaluating the physical properties of the material to estimating its real applications, and from there to looking into sustainable methods of production and how to integrate it into basic hardware elements. From the construction of transistors, researchers have moved onto building circuits, like the one by IBM, which is a system that is capable of sending a text message. Scientists at IBM say that it is the most sophisticated graphene circuit built yet.
The text message sent with the graphene circuit consisted of the letters «IBM». The transmission was done wirelessly, with technology similar to what is used today in commercial devices. This represents the achievement of one of the requirements to build terminals with capabilities that are equal to the ones that are available today. The company has created a system that is powerful enough to establish communication of this type on its own.
But there’s still a long way to go for the new material to match the standards of silicon, the main resource in the hardware industry. The ultimate goal, it goes without saying, is to replace silicon with graphene, but the road is long, and despite these successes that are smoothing the path, there are still obstacles for which there are currently no solutions. Production at an assumable cost is one of them, but there are also significant technical limitations. IBM says that its graphene circuit is the most sophisticated that has been manufactured so far, but its power is far lower than the hardware that is being used by consumers every day.
Graphene’s first use will be…sensors
This is the prediction of Supratik Guha, IBM’s director of physical sciences. Not smartphones, tablets or other mass-consumer devices; sensors will probably be the first thing to be equipped with graphene circuits. The IBM executive said that they intend to experiment with RFID tags or ‘smart labels’, in order to get them to work faster.
Sensors will inevitably play a key role in the future of technology, because they make it possible to collect a large amount of data from multiple points, which is the basic ingredient that Big Data analysts will work with. Graphene is an excellent electrical conductor and its physical properties, such as strength and flexibility, make it ideal for integration into devices with many different designs whose main mission is to transmit data.
One of the aspirations sparked by graphene is flexible devices, especially smartphones. And while it’s true that some manufacturers are already launching their first non-rigid models, the expectations placed on the new material are much loftier, due to its natural capabilities. The University of Texas has created graphene transistors that can be integrated into certain key parts of mobile devices, which are normally made of plastic and the enormous difference in the flexibility of these materials gives grounds for optimism.