Norway researchers grow semiconductors on graphene

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have patented and are commercialising gallium arsenide (GaAs) nanowires grown on graphene.

According to NTNU, semiconductors grown on graphene are expected to become the basis for new types of device systems, and could fundamentally change the semiconductor industry.

The technology underpinning their approach has recently been described in a publication in the journal Nano Letters.

The new patented hybrid material offers excellent optoelectronic properties, said Prof Helge Weman, a professor at NTNU’s Department of Electronics and Telecommunications, and chief technology officer and co-founder of CrayoNano, the company created to commercialise the research.

‘We have managed to combine low cost, transparency and flexibility in our new electrode,’ he said in a statement.

The patented method of growing semiconductor nanowires on atomically thin graphene uses MBE (Molecular Beam Epitaxy) to grow the nanowires.

Weman said: ‘We do not see this as a new product. This is a template for a new production method for semiconductor devices. We expect solar cells and light-emitting diodes to be first in line when future applications are planned.

‘Companies such as IBM and Samsung are driving this development in the search for a replacement for silicon in electronics, as well as for new applications, such as flexible touch screens for mobile phones.

‘Well, they need not wait any more. Our invention fits perfectly with the production machinery they already have. We make it easy for them to upgrade consumer electronics to a level where design has no limits.’

One possible device with very large market potential is a nanowire solar cell, which is said to have the potential to be efficient, cheap and flexible.

Weman envisions flexible self-powered consumer electronics integrated into everything from clothes to notepads, plus mobile phones, tablets and exercise accessories.

‘Semiconductors grown on graphene could become the basis for new types of device systems, and could transform the semiconductor industry by introducing graphene as a preferred substrate for many applications,’ he said.