My watch list
my.chemeurope.com  
Login  

Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

12-Apr-2017

Copyright: Stefan Wachter

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although - or often more precisely because - they are made up of just one or a few layers of atoms. Graphene is the best-known 2D material. Molybdenum disulphide (a layer consisting of molybdenum and sulphur atoms that is three-atoms thick) also falls in this category, although, unlike graphene, it has semiconductor properties. With his team, Dr Thomas Mueller from the Photonics Institute at TU Wien is conducting research into 2D materials, viewing them as a promising alternative for the future production of microprocessors and other integrated circuits.

The whole and the sum of its parts

Microprocessors are an indispensable and ubiquitous component in the modern world. Without their continued development, many of the things we take for granted these days, such as computers, mobile phones and the internet, would not be possible at all. However, while silicon has always been used in the production of microprocessors, it is now slowly but surely approaching its physical limits. 2D materials, including molybdenum disulphide, are showing promise as potential replacements. Although research into individual transistors - the most basic components of every digital circuit - made of 2D materials has been under way since graphene was first discovered back in 2004, success in creating more complex structures has been very limited. To date, it has only been possible to produce individual digital components using a few transistors. In order to achieve a microprocessor that operates independently, however, much more complex circuits are required which, in addition also need to interact flawlessly.

Thomas Mueller and his team have now managed to achieve this for the first time. The result is a 1-bit microprocessor consisting of 115 transistors over a surface area of around 0.6 mm2 that can run simple programs. "Although, this does of course seem modest when compared to the industry standards based on silicon, this is still a major breakthrough within this field of research. Now that we have a proof of concept, in principle there is no reason that further developments can't be made," says Stefan Wachter, a doctoral student in Dr Mueller's research group. However, it was not just the choice of material that resulted in the success of the research project. "We also gave careful consideration to the dimensions of the individual transistors," explains Mueller. "The exact relationships between the transistor geometries within a basic circuit component are a critical factor in being able to create and cascade more complex units."

Future prospects

It goes without saying that much more powerful and complex circuits with thousands or even millions of transistors will be required for this technology to have a practical application. Reproducibility continues to be one of the biggest challenges currently being faced within this field of research along with the yield in the production of the transistors used. After all, both the production of 2D materials in the first place as well as the methods for processing them further are still at the very early stages. "As our circuits were made more or less by hand in the lab, such complex designs are of course pretty much beyond our capability. Every single one of the transistors has to function as planned in order for the processor to work as a whole," explains Mueller, stressing the huge demands placed on state-of-the-art electronics. However, the researchers are convinced that industrial methods could open up new fields of application for this technology over the next few years. One such example might be flexible electronics, which are required for medical sensors and flexible displays. In this case, 2D materials are much more suitable than the silicon traditionally used owing to their significantly greater mechanical flexibility.

Facts, background information, dossiers
  • TU Wien
  • 2D materials
More about TU Wien
  • News

    The Beam of Invisibility: New cloaking technology has been developed

    How do we make an object invisible? Researchers from TU Wien (Vienna), together with colleagues from Greece and the USA, have now developed a new idea for a cloaking technology. A completely opaque material is irradiated from above with a specific wave pattern – with the effect that light w ... more

    Diamonds coupled using quantum physics

    Diamonds with minute flaws could play a crucial role in the future of quantum technology. For some time now, researchers at TU Wien have been studying the quantum properties of such diamonds, but only now have they succeeded in coupling the specific defects in two such diamonds with one ano ... more

    Switching oxygen on and off

    Oxygen atoms are highly reactive, yet the world does not spontaneously burn, even though everything is surrounded by this aggressive element. Why? The reason is that normal O2 molecules, are not particularly reactive. At the Vienna University of Technology, it has now been possible to selec ... more

  • Videos

    Epoxy Resin

    A flash of ultraviolet light sets off a chain reaction which hardens the whole object. more

    Noreia

    The coating machine Noreia was built at TU Wien. This time-lapse video shows the construction process. more

    Shaping Drops: Control over Stiction and Wetting

    Some surfaces are wetted by water, others are water-repellent. TU Wien (Vienna), KU Leuven and the University of Zürich have discovered a robust surface whose adhesive and wetting properties can be switched using electricity. This remarkable result is featured on the cover of Nature magazin ... more

Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE