Single atomic layer semiconductors get within reach

February 23, 2017 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Semiconductors, as thin as a single layer of atoms, are no longer a dream of the future: Researchers in Germany, the United States and Poland have together developed a two-dimensional material that could revolutionize electronics. Its semiconducting properties make this material appear suited for advanced applications even much better than graphene.

The new material, introduced to the public in the scientific magazine ACS Nano, contains carbon, boron and nitrogen, its chemical name is Hexagonal Boron-Carbon-Nitrogen (h-BCN). “Our development can be the starting point for a new generation of transistors, electronic circuits and sensors that are much smaller than existing electronic elements. In addition, we expect them to significantly reduce energy consumption than CMOS”, explains professor Axel Enders from the University of Bayreuth (Germany). While CMOS is hitting its limits in particularly in terms of further shrinking electronic circuits, the new material offers ample potential, even way beyond graphene that already has been celebrated as the most promising material of future nano electronics. This even though it is having very similar structures.

Graphene is a lattice of carbon atoms that are interlaced in only two dimensions. Therefore, this lattice is thin as one atomic layer. When this structure was investigated more closely after its discovery, its enormous stability caused worldwide enthusiasm. Graphene is 100 to 300 times stronger than steel and at the same time it has excellent thermal and electric conductivity. However, electrons are flowing through the material unhindered at any voltage; there are no defined On and Off states. “Therefore, graphene does not suit for use as electronic components. For such applications, semiconductors are required, because they offer stable and switchable distinct states,” Enders explains.