February 23, 2016, anysilicon
Research in the field of 2D materials that started approximately five years ago, focusing on developing materials that are one layer thick which would make it faster for atoms to move in a single layer. Currently, transistors and other components used in electronic devices have been made of 3D materials such as silicon, which is much slower than using 2D materials. These 3D materials consist of multiple layers on a glass substrate in which electrons bounce around inside the layers in all directions. The problem with this is that the electrons tend to scatter amongst the layers which slows down the speed of electronic devices.
A group of researchers, led by Ashutosh Tiwari and comprised of doctoral students K. J. Saji and Kun Tian, and Michael Snure of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Research Lab near Dayton, Ohio among others, at the University of Utah have discovered the first stable P-type 2D semiconductor. This semiconductor consists of the element tin and oxygen, also known as tin monoxide. It is only one atom thick which allows electrical charges to move through it much faster than it would have using the typically used 3D materials such as silicon.
The new 2D semiconductor tin monoxide could be used in transistors. Transistors are the main part of electronic devices, such as computer processors, graphics processors, and mobile devices, that makes them functional. This new semiconductor will also make it possible to manufacture transistors that are smaller and faster than transistors that still make use of 3D materials such as silicon.
The smaller size would make processors much faster and more powerful. This is because a chip’s speed depends on how many transistors are packed into it. Since the 2D transistor is much smaller, more transistors would be able to fit into a single chip. The researchers predict that this innovation will make electronic devices up to 100 times faster.
The processors will also stay cooler for longer. Since the electrons move in a single layer the amount of friction will be less than with 3D transistors where they bounce around in multiple layers. 2D transistors will also take less power to run, which is greatly beneficial for devices that run on battery power.
It will be a great asset for medical devices such as electronic implants. These implants would be able to run for longer on a single battery. This will lessen the medical costs of those who have to have these implants replaced often and would increase the efficiency of the implants.
Commercially, these new 2D transistors would lead to computers and smartphones that are much faster. These computers and smartphones would also be able to run on battery power for much longer than devices using 3D transistors.
Tiwari estimates that they will be able to produce a prototype device within two or three years.