Silicon is very cool.
Its greatness is testified to by more than 70 years of steady progress in electronic computing, from the first primitive desktop calculators to the pocket-sized supercomputer we call a smartphone.
Correctly shape silicon, shape it into a transistor, and it could be both conductive and insulator, depending on the charge that passes through it – an essential property without which the entire digital revolution, the internet, and everything from TikTok to Covid vaccines would be impossible.
But silicon shows its age. The reliable multiplier every two years in the mathematical power of microchips, known as Moore’s Law, Was slowing downIt could happen soon Reached the end. It is largely impossible, with current methods, to obtain elements engraved in silicon, such as transistors, below 3 nm At its smallest dimensions. (To put that into perspective, a 3nm film can be up to 15 atoms thick.) So the tech industry is looking for other wonder materials to replace the good old silicon – or at least combine with it to dramatically increase its size capabilities.
Researchers on the bleeding edge in physics, chemistry and engineering are experimenting with strange-sounding materials for use in microchips. They include graphene, black phosphorous, transition metal second chalcogenides, and boron nitride nanoparticles. They are known collectively as two-dimensional materials because they are flat sheets only one or two atoms thick. They were largely unknown only 20 years ago, and are now regularly made in laboratories, using normal methods such as mixer and tough as high temperature vapor deposition.