L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

01 March 2007 Blog Home : March 2007 : Permalink

Gecko Tape, Graphene and Single Electron Transistors

Now and again we read articles (usually by Americans) about the death of European science and the like. This one by John Ringo is quite a good example and it aways annoys me because it is kind of right. But the problem with these sorts of article is that they tend to paint with a broad brush and thereby ignore the actual science and engineering done in Europe. For a counter-example of what Europeans can do take a look at the University of Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology. Amongst other developments that group has developed a kind of gecko tape - a product that actually features in a John Ringo/Travis Taylor book.

The same group has also developed a number of single atom sheets including a carbon sheet which they call Graphene. For the last couple of years they seem to been playing with this material and, after diverting into pure physics, have now started going down the more practical path by making transistors with it. These transistors are rather special as they permit the passage of individual electrons at room temperatures, something that has previously only been possible at very cold temperatures. As the register reports there are some other advantages too:

The transistor itself is of a type known as the single-electron transistor. The controlling gate electrode is capacitively coupled to an electrode called the island, which sits between the source and the drain. At a certain voltage the island forms what's known as a Coulomb blockade, preventing an electron in the source quantum mechanically tunneling through to the island and then through to the drain. Apply a positive voltage to the gate, and the electron is free to pass from source to island to drain.

The single-electron transistor design is not only inherently very small, but the tiny voltages required to switch it on and off make it very sensitive, to the extent that it's seen as a possible fast yet low-power successor to today's chip transistors.

Not bad for a continent unable to do any science....

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin