Silicene Transistors Emerge as an Alternative to Graphene – Could Succeed Silicon
Graphene is an amazing substance, truly the wonder material, albeit with one caveat. As the famous saying goes “Graphene can do anything, except make it out of the lab”. Because of its planar nature and highly reactive edges, correct application of Graphene remains a dilemma that scientists have yet to solve but in the mean time researchers at University of Texas Cockrell’s School of Engineering have come up with an alternative to Graphene that appears to be in the same league as the former – Silicene.
Image courtesy of Extremetech.com
Silicene transistors could replace silicon in computing
Ofcourse the problem isn’t as simple as simply being able to manipulate graphene, there is a very fundamental problem with Graphene computing namely that of the band gap. Simply put, graphene has serious problems not-conducting current, which is something that is utterly essential in making transistors. While there have been breakthroughs in creating this off-state in the past, they still require alot more work. The other option is reinventing computing from the ground up – something not really feasible for the short run.
Silicene was proven to exist only as late as 2010, and is currently one of the top contenders along with the delightfully controversial hemp based transistors. Silicon is actually pretty similar to carbon in nature and lies just alongside it on the periodic table. It is infact one of the alternative base for life to exist elsewhere in the universe. And best of all, it appears to have the coveted band gap. That means that it is possible to put silicene in a state where electricity is not flowing.
“Apart from introducing a new player in the playground of 2D materials, silicene, with its close chemical affinity to silicon, suggests an opportunity in the road map of the semiconductor industry,” “The major breakthrough here is the efficient low-temperature manufacturing and fabrication of silicene devices for the first time.” – Deji Akinwande
There is however a very slight problem (read: crippling flaw) with silicene currently. It degrades under oxygen extremely quickly. While that is almost a negligible concern for high end applications, this will make it more or less unfeasible for mainstream products unless they can develop a coating capable of keeping oxygen out (it currently degenerates well under 2 minutes). Akiwande hopes to apply his successful research into germanene also (which degrades in a few hours). It remains to be seen which material will win the race for the future of computing. Silicene is quite possibly the top contender but my hunch remains with Graphene.