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Letter from the Editor - 2015 November
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Letter from the Editor - November 2015


The Search for “The Killer App” for Graphene Misses the Point  


This quarter’s newsletter is broken into four main themes: new 2D materials, new properties of 2D materials, new methods for manufacturing 2D materials and finally new devices made from 2D materials. 


Of course, the ultimate aim of graphene and 2D material research is to make new and better devices from these materials. But in order to do that you first have to discover 2D materials—graphene was first synthesize just over a decade ago and new ones are coming up all the time—and then you have to learn the properties of those materials. After that you start trying to fabricate useful devices from them that match their properties, and finally you can start concerning yourself with improving manufacturing to lower costs.


That’s a lot of research over many years and people are beginning to doubt whether it’s all been worth it considering all they hype about graphene and other 2D materials. This doubt inevitably leads to pieces like we saw this summer in Nature, that questions whether we are ever going to see a “killer app” emerge for graphene, and, by extension, other 2D materials.


This hand wringing about the emergence of a killer app is simply missing the point. All of this research into 2D materials and other nanomaterials has to be done because the end game is closing in with silicon. Whether any of the nanomaterials we now have before us will ever be a viable alternative for silicon hardly matters, we need to find something that is. In the meantime, all the other so-called killer apps for these materials that are emerging are worth it all by themselves.


The name of the game in digital electronics of today is silicon CMOS (Complimentary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor). It is so thoroughly entrenched that despite the fact that everyone concedes that it’s not going to stand up against the march of Moore’s Law, which demands that the number of transistors in every integrated circuit doubles every two years, there is still no viable alternative. Silicon can’t do it. They’ve doped it, stacked it and performed just about every engineering trick you can imagine and here we are coming to the end of the road with silicon and there’s still no alternative to keep Moore’s Law moving ahead without interruption.


While others lament that the range of nanomaterials has not yet offered up the so-called “killer app”, the truth is that all of these nanomaterials have offered one irresistible killer app: they are a potential replacement for silicon in digital electronics. 


In this edition of the Graphene Council Newsletter, we offer you an intriguing insight into the 2D material that is being touted as maybe the savior that we have all been looking for: black phosphorus. To learn more about what this material that has really just emerged in the last 18 months can offer us is discussed by a scientist who is at the forefront of this research, providing us with an intriguing look at what may be the material that leads us to the killer app everyone seems to be clamoring for.