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One Atom thick germanium sheets may replace silicon in semiconductors

Chemists are Ohio State University have used sheets of germanium atoms to create a substance known as germanane. Due to advantages over silicon, it may become the material of choice for semiconductors in the future. A paper on the research has been published in the journal ACS Nano.

Germanium was used over 60 years ago to create the first experimental microchips. Ohio State assistant professor of chemistry Joshua Goldberger wondered if it could still be used in place of silicon.

He said “Most people think of graphene as the electronic material of the future. But silicon and germanium are still the materials of the present. Sixty years’ worth of brainpower has gone into developing techniques to make chips out of them. So we’ve been searching for unique forms of silicon and germanium with advantageous properties, to get the benefits of a new material but with less cost and using existing technology.”

The material has been tested to conduct electrons ten times faster than silicon and five times faster than traditional germanium. In real world terms this means it could handle a higher load if used in microchips. Chemically it is also more stable than silicon and won’t oxidize in the presence of air or water. It is also better at absorbing and emitting light, meaning it could be utilised in solar cells as well.

Gizmag add “Ordinarily, germanium takes the form of multilayered crystals. The single-atom-thick layers are bonded to one another, and each one is quite unstable on its own. The OSU researchers created their own germanium crystals, in which calcium atoms were inserted between the layers. That calcium was then dissolved using water, leaving empty chemical bonds in its absence. Those bonds were subsequently plugged with hydrogen, resulting in much more stable layers that could be peeled from the crystal while remaining intact.”

Kitguru says: This will be one to watch in coming years.

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