Origin of 1/f Noise in Graphene Multilayers Could Shrink Electronics

A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside recently published a paper that could help downscale the size of electronic devices even more. The research, which was published in the Applied Physics Letters journal, is titled: Origin of 1/f noise in graphene multilayers: Surface vs. volume. The potential solution is the result of research on an almost century-old problem.

The research team, led by Alexander A. Balandin, a professor of electrical engineering at UC Riverside, focused on the low-frequency electronic 1/f noise. This is also known as pink noise and flicker noise. It is a signal or process with a power spectral density inversely proportional to the frequency. It was first discovered in vacuum tubes in 1925 and since then it has been found everywhere from fluctuations of the intensity in music recordings to human heart rates and electrical currents in materials and devices.

For almost a century, the origin of 1/f noise in most of material systems remained a mystery. A question of particular importance for electronics was whether 1/f noise was generated on the surface of electrical conductors or inside their volumes.

A team of researchers from the UC Riverside, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute of The Russian Academy of Sciences were able to shed light on 1/f noise origin using a set of multi-layered graphene samples with the thickness continuously varied from around 15 atomic planes to a single layer of graphene. Graphene is a single-atom thick carbon crystal with unique properties, including superior electrical and heat conductivity, mechanical strength and unique optical absorption.

Origin of 1/f Noise in Graphene Multilayers: Surface vs. Volume Abstract

Low-frequency noise with the spectral density S(f)~1/fy (f is the frequency and y ≈ 1) is a ubiquitous phenomenon, which hampers operation of many devices and circuits. A long-standing question of particular importance for electronics is whether 1/f noise is generated on the surface of electrical conductors or inside their volumes. Using high-quality graphene multilayers, we were able to directly address this fundamental problem of the noise origin. Unlike the thickness of metal or semiconductor films, the thickness of graphene multilayers can be continuously and uniformly varied all the way down to a single atomic layer of graphene — the actual surface. We found that 1/f noise becomes dominated by the volume noise when the thickness exceeds ?7 atomic layers (?2.5 nm). The 1/f noise is the surface phenomenon below this thickness. The obtained results are important for continuous downscaling of conventional electronics and for the proposed graphene applications in sensors and communications.

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