A European research project says it has made an important step towards the further miniaturisation of nanoelectronics using silicene, a semiconducting material which combines the properties of silicon and graphene.
"Electronics are currently embedded in many layers of silicon atoms," explained Dr Athanasios Dimoulas, coordinator of the EU's 2D-NANOLATTICES project. "If they can be manufactured in a single layer, they can be shrunk down to much smaller sizes and we can cut down on power leakage, at the same time making devices more powerful and energy efficient."
The project's breakthrough has been to make a Field Effect Transistor (FET) from silicene that can operate at room temperature. However, there are issues with the material as its properties are modified when it comes into contact with other substances. In its work, the project grew silicene on a silver substrate, then transferred it to silicon dioxide. "Tests showed that performance of silicene is very, very good on the non-metal substrate," Dr Dimoulas added.
"The fact that we have this one transistor made of just one single layer of material like silicon has not been done before and this is really something that can be described as a breakthrough. On the basis of this achievement, it could be possible to make transistors up to 100 times smaller in the vertical direction," he continued. He also believes lateral dimensions can be reduced, with the overall prospects of a unit area accommodating up to 25times more electronics than is currently possible.