Silicon chips get speed boost with a lead start

In tennis, the materials of the tennis court affect the performance of the ball. Such is the case, on a much, much smaller scale, for electron movement across circuitry. Silicon chips give resistance that lowers the speed limit, while atom-thick sheets of carbon (a.k.a. graphene) have a special property whereby free electrons are almost weightless and can travel up to 0.003 times the speed of light -- sounds great, but it's hard to produce in bulk. Cut to Han Woong Yeom and Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea. His team has added a thin layer lead on a silicon chip, lowering the electron mass (and thus proportionally raising its speed) to 1/20th compared to standard silicon. Still a ways to go for graphene speeds -- by a factor of three, according to Yeom -- but it's also more likely to mass production.