Ever smaller and low-power: these are the transistors of the future, but not necessarily made of silicon. 2D materials have now been integrated with graphene in the challenge to dominate in the field of the electronics of tomorrow. A study recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, is the outcome of work carried out by researchers from the University of Pisa who collaborated with their colleagues from the Italian Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Dallas, the research society AMO and Texas Instruments.
"Over the last few years the scientific community has shown a notable interest in 2D materials as a substitute for silicon in electronics," explains Gianluca Fiori from the Department of Information Engineering at the University of Pisa, "materials which are just one atom thick such as transition metal chalcogenides (TMD), bismuth selenide or graphene, which for this reason could be used to create tiny transistors, as small as five nanometers, where the present ones are twenty nanometers. To put the dimensions into perspective, a virus is around a hundred nanometers, a bacterium is around a thousand nanometers and the thickness of a hair is around a hundred thousand nanometers."
The transistor, invented in 1948 at the Bell Laboratories, is the principal driving force of the technological revolution which brought a considerable capacity for calculus and communication to our PCs and smartphones. Current technology allows for around a billion transistors in a chip, a block of silicon approximately 2 cm2.
"This study is the result of a series of projects financed by the European Commission and the project of collaboration between the University of Pisa and MIT Boston," underlined Giuseppe Iannaccone from the Department of Information Engineering of the University of Pisa. "The technology for the production and elaboration of these materials is still in the embryonic stage, so we are dealing with widely interdisciplinary frontier research, with a medium to long term time frame. To this day, as well as transistors, these materials appear to be particularly promising for the creation of flexible electronic systems, wearable systems or systems applied to curved surfaces."