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Scientists build molybdenite chip prototype

Posted: 08 Dec 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:molybdenite  microchip  silicon 

A team of scientists at the Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES) at EPFL have developed a microchip made from molybdenite. They have made a chip, or integrated circuit, confirming that molybdenite can surpass the physical limits of silicon in terms of miniaturisation, electricity consumption, and mechanical flexibility.

"We have built an initial prototype, putting from two to six serial transistors in place, and shown that basic binary logic operations were possible, which proves that we can make a larger chip," explained LANES director Andras Kis, who recently published two articles on the subject in the scientific journal ACS Nano.

In early 2011, the lab unveiled the potential of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), "a relatively abundant, naturally occurring mineral. Its structure and semi-conducting properties make it an ideal material for use in transistors. It can thus compete directly with silicon, the most highly used component in electronics, and on several points it also rivals graphene."

"The main advantage of MoS2 is that it allows us to reduce the size of transistors, and thus to further miniaturise them," said Kis. It has not been possible up to this point to make layers of silicon less than two nanometers thick, because of the risk of initiating a chemical reaction that would oxidise the surface and compromise its electronic properties.

Molybdenite, on the other hand, can be worked in layers only three atoms thick, making it possible to build chips that are at least three times smaller. At this scale, the material is still very stable and conduction is easy to control.

MoS2 transistors are also more efficient. "They can be turned on and off much more quickly, and can be put into a more complete standby mode."

"Molybdenite is on a par with silicon in terms of its ability to amplify electronic signals, with an output signal that is four times stronger than the incoming signal. This proves that there is "considerable potential for creating more complex chips," Kis said. "With graphene, for example, this amplitude is about 1. Below this threshold, the output voltage would not be sufficient to feed a second, similar chip."

Molybdenite also has mechanical properties that make it interesting as a possible material for use in flexible electronics, such as eventually in the design of flexible sheets of chips. These could, for example, be used to manufacture computers that could be rolled up or devices that could be affixed to the skin.





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