Nanotechnology Introduction Series:

By: Dr Stanley Crawford (Ed.D)

The impact of nanotechnology on the field of electronics is far reaching.  Nanotechnology is the development and use of techniques to study physical phenomena and construct structures in the physical size range of 1-100 nanometers (nm), as well as the incorporation of these structures into applications [1].  When speaking of nanometers it is good to keep a comparison in mind that will help you keep the size of a nanometer in perspective; 1 inch = 25,400,000 nanometers.

Graphene Transistor of the Future


There are several areas that are impacted by nanotechnology in the field of electronics.  Nanotechnology and electronics are referred to as nanoelectronics by some people.  Some of the areas that are being researched and developed in the field of nanoelectronics are:  graphene transistors, carbon nanotubes, nanowires, carbon-based sensors, single molecule memory devices, solar cell applications, and nano-electromechanical systems (NEMS).  This article will focus on graphene transistors, solar cells, and nano-electromechanical systems (NEMS).

Graphene transistors are a single-atom-thick honeycomb lattice of carbon atoms.  They can transport electrons more quickly than other semiconductors [2].  Graphene devices might eventually become more popular in use than silicon.  Graphene is produced from graphite.  There are various ways of obtaining the graphene; some methods are cheaper than other methods for producing the graphene.  Two key characteristics of graphene transistors are their self cooling ability and they work with a low level of low frequency noise.

Nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS) are eletromechanical devices composed of nanoscale materials.  One use of NEMS devices is as switches.  A study by Henry and Nazhandali (2012) made the following discoveries:

  • The infinite off-resistance of NEMS switches leads to large reductions in average power consumption for architectures with long sleep periods.
  • NEMS power gates, due to the zero idle leakage, the optimal architecture is always the one with the lowest active energy consumption, which results in an architecture that is flexible for changing throughputs.
  • The activation energy of the NEMS power-gate switch array in a 130 nm technology is in the nanojoule range, the activation time is under 40 μs, and the on-power is effectively zero. These overhead values fall dramatically with lower technologies.
  • The area overhead of a power gating implementation using current NEMS prototypes is 36–83% lower, compared to transistor power gates [3].

Solar applications are another area where nanotechnology is being researched and developed.  For instance the use of nanowires in the use of solar cell applications is being developed and tested.  Nanowires are a lab-made wire build on the nano-scale.   The wire is usually around 20-40 nanometers in diameter.  The nanowire has unique electronic, magnetic, and optoelectronic qualities [4].  Research has shown that the benefits of nanowires will vary depending on the type of solar cell with which they are used [5].


[1] R.N. Kostoff, R.G. Koytcheff, C.G.Y. Lau, Global nanotechnology research literature overview, Technological forecasting & Social Change, 2007, Volume 74, 1733-1747.

[2] J.B. Chahardeh, A review of graphene transistors, International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer and Communication Engineering, 2012, Volume 1, Issue 4, 193-197.

[3] M. B. Henry, and L. Nazhandali, From transistors to NEMS: Highly efficient power-gating

of CMOS circuits, ACM Journal on Emerging Technologies in Computing Systems, 2012, Volume 8, Number 1, Article 2.

[4], What are Nanowires? Retrieved March 8, 2013 from

[5] Q. Zhang, S. Yodyingyong, J. Xi, D. Myers, G. Cao, Oxide nanowires for solar cell applications,  Nanoscale, 2012, Volume 4, 1436-1445.

Category: Nanotechnology