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New semiconducting material promises faster computers

"The field is very hot right now, and people are very interested in it," said lead researcher Ashutosh Tiwari.
By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 15, 2016 at 10:13 AM

SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A new ultra-thin semiconductor material could soon give computers an extra jolt of speed and efficiency.

The material, created by scientists at the University of Utah, is a single atom thick and composed of tin monoxide. Its two-dimensional structure allows electricity to pass across it much faster than the 3D shape of today's silicon semiconductors.

Transistors are a type of semiconductor device used to switch or amplify electrical signals, and they can be found in computers, smartphones and other devices that require graphics processing. The efficiency of 3D transistor materials suffers as electrons bounce around in all directions, but 2D tin monoxide, or SnO, transistors allow less room for chaos.

"[The electrons] can only move in one layer so it's much faster," lead researcher Ashutosh Tiwari, an associate professor of engineering at Utah, said in a press release.

Similar atom-thick 2D materials have shown promise in the field of electronics -- graphene, molybdenun disulfide and borophene. But these materials are only able to facilitate the movement of N-type, or negative, electrons. Tin monoxide allows for the movement of negative electrons and positive charges called "holes."

"Now we have everything -- we have P-type 2D semiconductors and N-type 2D semiconductors," Tiwari said. "Now things will move forward much more quickly."

The new material has other benefits too. Because the moving electrons produce much less friction when confined to a 2D shape, the transistor material doesn't overheat. The material is also more efficient, requiring less battery power.

These benefits could prove useful in a variety of electronic devices, including medical implants.

"The field is very hot right now, and people are very interested in it," Tiwari said. "So in two or three years we should see at least some prototype device."

The new material is detailed in the journal Advanced Electronic Materials.

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