Wonder material silicene has suicidal tendencies

Jan 14, 2014
Wonder material silicene has suicidal tendencies

The semiconductor industry of the future had high expectations of the new material silicene, which shares a lot of similarities with the 'wonder material' graphene. However, researchers of the MESA+ Research Institute of the University of Twente - who recently managed to directly and in real time film the formation of silicene - are harshly bursting the bubble: their research shows that silicene has suicidal tendencies. The research has been published by the renowned academic journal Applied Physics Letters.

The material silicene was first created in 2010. Just like , it consists of a single layer of atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern. Graphene consists of carbon atoms, silicene of atoms.

Because of their special properties - both are very strong, thin and flexible and have good electrical conductivity - graphene and silicene seem very well suited for the semiconductor industry of the future. After all, the parts on computer chips have to become smaller and smaller and the limits of the miniaturization of parts made of silicon are drawing closer and closer. The material silicene seems to be several steps ahead of graphene, because the has been using silicon (which, like silicene, consists of silicon atoms) for many years now. In addition, it is easier to realize a so-called bandgap in silicene, which is a prerequisite for a transistor.


Researchers of the MESA+ Research Institute of the University of Twente have, for the first time, managed to directly and in capture the formation of silicene on film. They let evaporated silicon atoms precipitate on a surface of silver, so that a nice, almost closed, singular layer of silicene was formed.

So far so good, but the moment that a certain amount of fall on top of the formed silicene layer, a silicon crystal (silicon in a diamond crystal structure instead of in a ) is formed, which triggers the further crystallization of the material; an irreversible process. From that moment, the newly formed silicon eats the silicene, so to speak.

Video above: Formation of silicene on a silver surface (grey, start of the film). On top of the silver, silicene islands gradually start to form (black, halfway through the film). When the surface is almost completely covered, these collapse into silicon crystals again (black dots in grey areas, end of the film).

The reason for this is that the regular crystal structure (diamond) of silicon is energetically more favourable than the honeycomb structure of silicene and therefore more stable. Because of this property, the researchers did not succeed in covering more than 97 per cent of the silver surface with silicene, nor were they able to create multi-layered silicene. In other words: the moment a surface is almost completely covered with silicene, the material commits suicide and simple silicon is formed. The researchers do not expect it to be possible to create multi-layered silicene on a different type of surface, because the influence of the on the formation of the second layer of silicene is negligible.

Explore further: Demystifying nanocrystal solar cells

More information: "The instability of silicene on Ag(111)." A. Acun, B. Poelsema, H. J. W. Zandvliet, R. van Gastel. Appl. Phys. Lett. 103, 263119 (2013); dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4860964

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User comments : 5

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not rated yet Jan 14, 2014
That's too bad!

Maybe a layer of different material needs to be deposited before another layer of silicene can be achieved.
not rated yet Jan 14, 2014
From the first sentence, I expected a time-traveling journalist. I'm disappointed.
not rated yet Jan 14, 2014
UPDATE: The semiconductor industry of the even more future solved the problem by covering the silicene. The "sandwich" forces the silicone to stay in the honeycomb arrangement.
not rated yet Jan 15, 2014
Maybe a layer of different material needs to be deposited before another layer of silicene can be achieved.

Having only a single layer is sort of the point. (i.e. specifically NOT depositing anything onto it after it is formed)...and that single layer is, as the article decribes, unstable as soon as it comes into contact with some more silicon.
not rated yet Jan 15, 2014

Actually from the article the creation of multiple layers was favorable... its in there reread...

And its is not unusual to think of using another binding material to sandwich the one needed to be pure.. this is done in a few vapor dispositions to create the needed material in suffiecient purity

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