First molybdenite microchip

Dec 05, 2011 By Sarah Perrin
Credit: 2011 EPFL

(PhysOrg.com) -- Molybdenite, a new and very promising material, can surpass the physical limits of silicon. EPFL scientists have proven this by making the first molybdenite microchip, with smaller and more energy efficient transistors.

After having revealed the electronic advantages of molybdenite, EPFL researchers have now taken the next definitive step. The Laboratory of and Structures (LANES) has made a chip, or integrated circuit, confirming that molybdenite can surpass the physical limits of silicon in terms of miniaturization, , and mechanical .

“We have built an initial prototype, putting from two to six serial transistors in place, and shown that basic binary logic operations were possible, which proves that we can make a larger chip,” explains LANES director Andras Kis, who recently published two articles on the subject in the scientific journal ACS Nano.

In early 2011, the lab unveiled the potential of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), a relatively abundant, naturally occurring mineral. Its structure and semi-conducting properties make it an ideal material for use in transistors. It can thus compete directly with silicon, the most highly used component in electronics, and on several points it also rivals graphene.

Three atoms thick

“The main advantage of MoS2 is that it allows us to reduce the size of transistors, and thus to further miniaturize them,” explains Kis. It has not been possible up to this point to make layers of silicon less than two nanometers thick, because of the risk of initiating a chemical reaction that would oxidize the surface and compromise its electronic properties. Molybdenite, on the other hand, can be worked in layers only three atoms thick, making it possible to build chips that are at least three times smaller. At this scale, the material is still very stable and conduction is easy to control.

Not as greedy

MoS2 are also more efficient. “They can be turned on and off much more quickly, and can be put into a more complete standby mode,” Kis explains.
Molybdenite is on a par with in terms of its ability to amplify electronic signals, with an output signal that is four times stronger than the incoming signal. This proves that there is “considerable potential for creating more complex chips,” Kis says. “With graphene, for example, this amplitude is about 1. Below this threshold, the output voltage would not be sufficient to feed a second, similar chip.”

Built in flexibility

Molybdenite also has mechanical properties that make it interesting as a possible material for use in flexible electronics, such as eventually in the design of flexible sheets of chips. These could, for example, be used to manufacture computers that could be rolled up or devices that could be affixed to the skin.

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Provided by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

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User comments : 8

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HydraulicsNath
5 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2011
This new advancement sounds wonderful! I am very interested in discovering more about the applications that can be given thanks to Molybdenite's flexibility.
Microchip to the skin attachments are very intriguing indeed.
gmurphy
1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2011
@HydraulicsNath, lol, yes, microchip to the skin attachments, in case we're ever off the grid for more than a few seconds, just what the doctor ordered :)
Shakescene21
not rated yet Dec 05, 2011
"...on several points it also rivals graphene."

WOW! This stuff must be good. How can I buy stock in MoS2?
LEDman
not rated yet Dec 05, 2011
Buy stock in a mineral - LOL!

Why not, Michigan invested in rust . . .
tadchem
not rated yet Dec 05, 2011
Molybdenite has long been a very useful dry lubricant because of its high melting point, low hardness, low volatility, and chemical inertness. Unlike graphite it has almost no ability to capture and hold gas moelcules, which makes it ideal for lubricating fittings in high vacuum systems.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 06, 2011
While this is great it also means that the number of generations this material will buy us (Moore's law) is very low. Consider that changing over machines to manufacture this stuff (from creating the pure raw material to cutting it, and producing the transistors structures ith it) is a huge investment.

That investment must be worth it. If weonly geta factor of three out of this then the viable time for this technology will be a mere 2 years. Companies may shun taking a risk for such a small time of payoff.
Instead they might invest into technologies that have a larger lifecycle (Though I can't think of any that would fit the bill. ossibly graphene. Though there are still too many unknowns to be able to tell whether large scale TTL is possible with it on an atomic scale)
dankgoat
not rated yet Dec 07, 2011
Currently the only way to get clean MoS2 is mechanical exfoliation like graphene except it comes off in much smaller pieces (hence those tiny leads in the picture). You cannot mass produce this way.
DaffyDuck
not rated yet Dec 12, 2011
antialias_physorg, it is beginning to look like stacking is what is going to keep Moore's Law going and once the technique is perfected and layer thickness reduced, I think stacking could bring the doubling time down from the current 2 years. It's going to happen soon with memory chips and hopefully soon after with microprocessors, however, heat management is a huge issue.