Thin Layer of Germanium May Replace Silicon in Semiconductors
The same material that formed the first primitive transistors more than 60 years ago can be modified in a new way to advance future electronics, according to a new study.
Chemists at The Ohio State University have developed the technology for making a one-atom-thick sheet of germanium, and found that it conducts electrons more than ten times faster than silicon and five times faster than conventional germanium.
The material’s structure is closely related to that of graphene—a much-touted two-dimensional material comprised of single layers of carbon atoms. As such, graphene shows unique properties compared to its more common multilayered counterpart, graphite. Graphene has yet to be used commercially, but experts have suggested that it could one day form faster computer chips, and maybe even function as a superconductor, so many labs are working to develop it.
“Most people think of graphene as the electronic material of the future,” Goldberger said. “But silicon and germanium are still the materials of the present. Sixty years’ worth of brainpower has gone into developing techniques to make chips out of them. So we’ve been searching for unique forms of silicon and germanium with advantageous properties, to get the benefits of a new material but with less cost and using existing technology.”
In a paper published online in the journal ACS Nano, he and his colleagues describe how they were able to create a stable, single layer of germanium atoms. In this form, the crystalline material is called germanane.
Researchers have tried to create germanane before. This is the first time anyone has succeeded at growing sufficient quantities of it to measure the material’s properties in detail, and demonstrate that it is stable when exposed to air and water.
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