Engineers belonging to the University of Utah, the USA, discovered a new kind of 2D semiconducting material for electronics that is made up of the elements tin and oxygen or tin monoxide (SnO).
The discovery was made by a team of engineers led by Indian-Orgin Ashutosh Tiwari and published online on 15 February 2016 in the journal Advanced Electronic Materials.
The only one atom thick 2D SnO material allows electrical charges to move through it much faster than conventional 3D materials such as silicon and will facilitate development of much speedier computers and smartphones.
Differences between 2D and 3D materials
Transistors and other components used in electronic devices are currently made of 3D materials such as silicon and consist of multiple layers on a glass substrate. But the downside to 3D materials is that electrons bounce around inside the layers in all directions.
2D materials, which came into prominence five years ago, are made up of one layer with the thickness of just one or two atoms. Consequently, the electrons can only move in one layer so it’s much faster and the devices made up of them consume less power.
And, as the electrons move through one layer in 2D material instead of bouncing around in a 3D material, there will be less friction, meaning the processors will not get as hot as normal computer chips.
Difference between SnO and other 2D materials
While researchers in the field of materials science and engineering discovered new types of 2D material such as graphene, molybdenun disulfide and borophene, they are of limited use as they only allow the movement of N-type, or negative, electrons.
However, in order to create an electronic device, there is a need for semiconductor material that allows the movement of both negative electrons and positive charges known as “holes”.
The present SnO material fills this vacuum as it has become the first stable P-type 2D semiconductor material ever in existence.
Significance of the discovery
Typically, a computer processor is comprised of billions of transistors and the more transistors packed into a single chip the more powerful the processor can become.
With the availability of P-type and N-type 2D semiconductors, the scientists will be able to manufacture smaller and faster transistors than that are available now.
Since transistors are the lifeblood of all electronic devices such as computer processors and graphics processors the discovery could lead to development of computers and smartphones that are more than 100 times faster than regular devices.
The low-battery requirement of 2D semiconductor-based material is of particular significance for medical devices such as electronic implants that run longer on a single battery charge.
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