Scientist have made a breakthrough and have created the world’s first transistors made out of silicene. If the technology can be developed further, this could be a game changer for future computers.
You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of silicene before, especially in the context of transistors and computer processors. That’s because just a few years ago, this material was wholly theoretical and its properties and structure were largely unknown.
Silicene is the slim version of silicon, basically being made up of the same atoms but in just a single one atom thick layer. Silicene is to silicon what graphene is to graphite, or carbon. And just like graphene, this new 2-D material has electrical properties which make it a prime candidate for use in computers and electronics.
New computer chips made with silicene would be smaller than ever, provide amazing performance and be far more energy efficient than anything we have today on the market.
However, if that all sounds a bit too good to be true, it’s because at best, this technology is some years into the future. The real breakthrough right now is that researchers managed to actually make silicene in an efficient manner and use it without destroying it – something that so far had been next to impossible. But the material still requires containment in a zero-oxygen environment which means we won’t see it anytime soon in any of our gadgets.
And that’s not the only problem. As chips get smaller and smaller, and presumably silicene would make them smaller than ever, the laws of physics start constraining us. At scales below 5nm, quantum effects such as tunneling start to pose problems and keeping data uncorrupted might become impossible.
Still, breakthroughs in material science are always exciting because the number of possibilities is staggering. We’ll have to wait and see how the new technology comes to market.
Source: Science Daily |Silicene lattice image courtesy of University of Texas