Graphene is a nanomaterial combining very simple atomic structure with intriguingly complex and largely unexplored physics. Since its first isolation about four years ago researchers suggested a large number of applications for this material in anticipation of future technological revolutions. In particular, graphene is considered as a potential candidate for replacing silicon in future electronic devices.
Theoretical physicists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and Radboud University of Nijmegen (The Netherlands) performed a virtual crash-test of graphene as a material for future spintronic devices, possible components of future computers. The material successfully passed the test, although, with some reservations.
The researchers performed computer-time-demanding first principles calculations in order establish the range of magnetic order at graphene edges. At room temperature, this range, the spin correlation length, was found to be around 1 nanometer which limits device dimensions to several nanometers.
This result may first look rather disappointing since it is about one order of magnitude below the length scales of the present-day semiconductor manufacturing processes. Nevertheless, graphene performs better than any other material when it comes to one-dimension and room temperature. In other words, graphene is the best on the nanoscale.