Just few days ago I posted the news of the new Intel chip that keeps the Moore’s Law in good shape, and the expectations for the following three years. However, by the end of this decade (somewhere earlier actually), the present silicon will fail and if we want to keep Moore’s law going we need to look for something different. Many are betting on graphene, a carbon based substrate that can provide speedier chips.
Now at the MIT a team of researchers have announced the creation of a thin film made of bismuth and antimony letting electrons flow at a speed hundred times faster than in today’s silicon.
In the researchers own statement “electrons fly like a beam of light”! Obviously this is not exactly true but still it shows the progress made.
Now, you know that the signal is not brought around in a chip by electrons (that are actually moving pretty slow, a few cm per second having to jump from one atom to the next) but by the electromagnetic signal (and this really flies at the speed of light). The fact is that the movement of electrons leads to energy dissipation (the chip gets hot) and there is only as much heat that can be dissipated before the chips stops working. So this invention is good because it radically decreases the heat generation and can therefore support ever denser transistors, hence the survival of the Moore’s Law for a few more years.
The first application of this smart material, however, are likely to be in the area of solar cells, where what is important is the flow of electrons and therefore speedier electrons make for better panels.
It is also expected to find application in several devices creating layers upon layers of this material, each one with specific property.
Other scientist, in France at the Aix Marseille University with colleagues at the Technical University in Germany, have found a way to create a layer of silicon made by a single atom. It is done by blowing silicon vapor on a silver plate. This can also lead to cheaper and faster electronics. The material is shown in the figure above (the photo has been taken with an electron microscope) and has been called “silicine”.
There are many research teams exploring new materials and among these we will probably find the successor to the silicon that has reigned in these last 60 years.