Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The next generation material for electronic chips

For quite a while there has been an ongoing debate over what material will be used to replace silicon for the demands of smaller and more efficient chips. Graphene, a single atom thick sheet of honeycombed carbon, was thought to be the most likely candidate for the longest time despite having to get over the Band Gap issue.

For those of you not caught up on your solid state physics, band gap refers to the distance between the valance band and the conduction band of a substance. These gaps allow for an electron to pass over, the larger the gap, the more energy required to pass the electron. With Graphene, you have a single planar sheet with all the valance states tied up, which is why it and the other fullerenes are so strong. Now there have been various experiments and hypothesis of how to get around this problem. But As of now, they have been made rather mute.

The reason for this is someone got around to testing a substance we have had laying around for a while to see if it would make a good semiconductor. What they found was molybdenite. Molybdenite is currently used as both a lubricant and in the manufacturing of certain steel alloys. It is rather abundant in nature and other then that, not much attention was payed to it. But a Swiss laboratory gave it a second look only to find that it would make a wonderful semiconductor.

Not only can it be formed into incredibly thin sheets, but the ever important band gap is far more efficient then with current silicon chips. How much more? In a standby state it consumes 100,000 times less energy then current silicon chips. Quite obviously laboratories all over are wondering what they can do with such a replacement material. This will allow for smaller and far more efficient chips then ever before, which will further lower the price of electronics while making them more powerful. It is an all around win. And be honest, until now you always thought Molybdenum was a silly name for an element.



B. Radisavljevic, A. Radenovic, J. Brivio, V. Giacometti, A. Kis. Single-layer MoS2 transistors. Nature
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