2D antimony holds promise for post-silicon electronics

November 04, 2019

Not everything is bigger in Texas -- some things are really, really small. A group of engineers at The University of Texas at Austin may have found a new material for manufacturing even smaller computer chips that could replace silicon and help overcome one of the biggest challenges facing the tech industry in decades: the inevitable end of Moore's Law.

In 1965, Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, predicted the number of transistors that could fit on a computer chip would double every two years, while the cost of computers would be cut in half. Almost a quarter century later and Moore's Law continues to be surprisingly accurate. Except for one glitch.

Silicon has been used in most electronic devices because of its wide availability and ideal semiconductor properties. But chips have shrunk so much that silicon is no longer capable of carrying more transistors. So, engineers believe the era of Moore's Law may be coming to an end, for silicon at least. There simply isn't enough room on existing chips to keep doubling the number of transistors.

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering are searching for other materials with semiconducting properties that could form the basis for an alternative chip. Yuanyue Liu, an assistant professor in the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering and a member of UT's Texas Materials Institute, may have found that material.

In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Liu and his team, postdoctoral fellow Long Cheng and graduate student Chenmu Zhang, outline their discovery that, in its 2D form, the chemical element antimony may serve as a suitable alternative to silicon.

Antimony is a semi-metal that is already used in electronics for some semiconductor devices, such as infrared detectors. As a material, it is only a couple of atomic layers thick and has a high charge mobility -- the speed a charge moves through a material when being pulled by an electric field. Antimony's charge mobility is much higher than other semiconductors with similar size, including silicon. This property makes it promising as the building block for post-silicon electronics.

Liu has only demonstrated its potential through theoretical computational methods but is confident it can exhibit the same properties when tested with physical antimony samples, which is the team's next step. But the findings have even broader significance than simply identifying a potential replacement for silicon in the race to maintain Moore's Law into the future.

"More importantly, we have uncovered the physical origins of why antimony has a high mobility," Liu said. "These findings could be used to potentially discover even better materials."
-end-


University of Texas at Austin

Related Engineering Articles from Brightsurf:

Re-engineering antibodies for COVID-19
Catholic University of America researcher uses 'in silico' analysis to fast-track passive immunity

Next frontier in bacterial engineering
A new technique overcomes a serious hurdle in the field of bacterial design and engineering.

COVID-19 and the role of tissue engineering
Tissue engineering has a unique set of tools and technologies for developing preventive strategies, diagnostics, and treatments that can play an important role during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineering the meniscus
Damage to the meniscus is common, but there remains an unmet need for improved restorative therapies that can overcome poor healing in the avascular regions.

Artificially engineering the intestine
Short bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition with few treatment options, and these treatments have limited efficacy.

Reverse engineering the fireworks of life
An interdisciplinary team of Princeton researchers has successfully reverse engineered the components and sequence of events that lead to microtubule branching.

New method for engineering metabolic pathways
Two approaches provide a faster way to create enzymes and analyze their reactions, leading to the design of more complex molecules.

Engineering for high-speed devices
A research team from the University of Delaware has developed cutting-edge technology for photonics devices that could enable faster communications between phones and computers.

Breakthrough in blood vessel engineering
Growing functional blood vessel networks is no easy task. Previously, other groups have made networks that span millimeters in size.

Next-gen batteries possible with new engineering approach
Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.

Read More: Engineering News and Engineering Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.