Technology 3 min read

New Semiconductor Film Technique Expands Possibilities for Cheaper, More Efficient Devices

University of Chicago | Concrete Imaging |

University of Chicago | Concrete Imaging |

Researchers have developed new scalable technique to produce atom-thick semiconductor films that will enable efficient miniature electronics.

Semiconductors are crystalline solid materials with electrical conductivity that lies between that of metals and that of insulators.

Nowadays, semiconductors are widely used in electronics to produce components such as transistors, diodes, thyristors, integrated circuits present in just about every device.

Novel technique to produce atom-thick semiconductor films for future devices.Click To Tweet

All current analog and digital circuitry is manufactured from semiconductors, and without them, there’d be no smartphones, no tablets, no laptops, and no TVs.

Without semiconductors, computers would perhaps have stayed at the stage of ENIAC and smartphones would never have existed.

Even this website, on which you’re now reading this piece, runs in the background thanks to semiconductors.

In other words, the Internet wouldn’t have been possible and it’d be difficult to imagine how the world would be without semiconductors.

Because of its convenient properties and abundance in nature, silicon is the most widely used semiconductor material.

Atom-Thick Semiconductor Films

For decades, scientists have been working to make silicon-based semiconductors thinner and thinner to expand capabilities of modern devices.

For devices to continue to meet the requirements of miniaturization, autonomy, and mobility, semiconductors have to be designed on the atomic scale.

A joint team of research from the University of Chicago and Cornell University developed a simple and cost-effective technology to produce heterostructured semiconductors films only a few atoms thick.

Formerly, scientists have been able to produce thin semiconductor films by “growing” them in a complex and error-prone process.

With the new technique, however, researchers make semiconductor layers individually, then “stack” them on top of each other, like Post-it notes.

In the film obtained, the layers are fastened together by weak bonds, which, in contrast to covalent films, don’t interfere with the surfaces between the layers and leave them intact.

“We expect this new method to accelerate the discovery of novel materials,” said Jiwoong Park, Chicago professor in the Department of Chemistry, who led the study, “as well as enabling large-scale manufacturing.”

The resulting films can be made to detach by immersing them in water, made on top of plastics, and can also be cut into various shapes using an ion laser, which can find application in computer processors and other devices such as cell phones and solar panels.

Are there any materials scientists that would like to way in on the efficacy of this new methodology?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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