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Incredibly Thin Silicon Transistors Could Create Super-Fast Computers

Feb 04, 2015 05:34 PM EST

Newly developed, incredibly thin silicon transistors - only one atom layer thick - could one day create super-fast computers, according to new research.

Silicene is the world's thinnest silicon material, and thus has been difficult to work with until now - it is extremely complex and becomes unstable when exposed to air. However, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have overcome this challenge by making silicone into transistors - semiconductor devices used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power.

"Apart from introducing a new player in the playground of 2-D materials, silicene, with its close chemical affinity to silicon, suggests an opportunity in the road map of the semiconductor industry," Deji Akinwande, who led the research, said in a statement. "The major breakthrough here is the efficient low-temperature manufacturing and fabrication of silicene devices for the first time."

This one-of-a-kind device could pave the way for future generations of faster, energy-efficient computer chips.

The research team was able to tame this hard-to-work-with material by forming a silicene sheet on a thin layer of silver, and then adding a nanometer-thick layer of alumina on top. This created protective layers that allowed researchers to peel off the silicene without exposing it to air that could render it useless.

Incredibly, human-made silicene was only a theoretical dream, now made into a reality that could revolutionize the computer industry. Akinwande and his team hope to create new structures and methods for creating silicene, which may lead to low-energy, high-speed digital computer chips.

The results are described further in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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