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Ultra-Thin Alternative To Silicon

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the delicious-thin-mint-technology dept.

Technology 83

An anonymous reader writes "There's good news in the search for the next generation of semiconductors. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley have successfully integrated ultra-thin layers of the semiconductor indium arsenide onto a silicon substrate to create a nanoscale transistor with excellent electronic properties (abstract). A member of the III–V family of semiconductors, indium arsenide offers several advantages as an alternative to silicon, including superior electron mobility and velocity, which makes it an outstanding candidate for future high-speed, low-power electronic devices."

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yay (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314270)

first post!

Re:yay (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314356)

Congratulations, you made the first post. Your life is now complete and validated.

What it comes down to... (1)

Dayofswords (1548243) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314292)

indium arsenide offers several advantages as an alternative to silicon, including superior electron mobility and velocity"

Mr. Executive: Whats the cost?

Re:What it comes down to... (1)

weorthe (666189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314372)

Indium is three times as abundant in the earth's crust as silver, with Canada being the leading supplier currently. That's still a lot less abundant than silicon.

Re:What it comes down to... (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314496)

Sorry, you can't have it. We are using all of it right now, and we don't know when we will be done with it.

Abundance in the crust is not always a good metric (1)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 3 years ago | (#34317906)

If it's going to be economically viable to extract, then it needs to have a high concentration somewhere. If an element is uniformly distributed in the earth's crust, then unless it's _very_ abundant, it's not going to be economically viable to extract (at .25ppm, Indium doesn't fit that bill).

So, while it may be more abundant than silver, it isn't often found in as high concentrations, so some people believe that we'll soon run out of economically viable sources -- one estimate puts that amount at 6,000 tons.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indium#Occurrence_and_consumption [wikipedia.org]

Re:What it comes down to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314898)

Mr. Executive: Whats the cost?

It has superior electron mobility, do you really think the audiophiles will care?

For some people and in some fields the price is pretty far down on the list of requirements.

Re:What it comes down to... (1)

damnfuct (861910) | more than 3 years ago | (#34318448)

Gallium arsenide (another III-IV semiconductor) also has some superior properties to silicon-based implementations (for example, its hole mobility). The reason why silicon always finds use is the end cost (ease of fabrication, really). Most of the time, silicon is used unless it lacks characteristics that the device requires (probably centred around its band gap characteristics). I guess the bottom line is whether this type of fabrication could be worked into existing methods, with good fabrication success rates, and a cost that is not prohibitive; otherwise, its use will be only in niche products.

Re:What it comes down to... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316412)

I don't think cost will be a major issue. Right now when you pay for a processor a small percentage goes into raw materials. Also you are using less of it too compared to modern methods.

What will happen this technology will come out. As a normal incremental upgrade and you probably wouldn't know that this technology is in the chip. They will just brand it with some name probably with a made up word and a number we will look at the specs if it is good enough some companies will buy it put it into their hardware and re-brand it again.

Re:What it comes down to... (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 3 years ago | (#34317070)

And what do raw materials need with that small percentage?

They've been getting uppity lately, and need to be put into their place.

BTW, your ultimate computer language is missing a closing paren.

Re:What it comes down to... (1)

heathen_01 (1191043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34317414)

BTW, your ultimate computer language is missing a closing paren.

Thats why its the ultimate computer language.

Ultra thin... (1)

mentil (1748130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314304)

Coming soon: indium arsenide condoms!
captcha: seeding

Re:Ultra thin... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314342)

Coming soon: indium arsenide condoms!

Recommended by the Catholic Church!

Re:Ultra thin... (1)

Pax681 (1002592) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314692)

i was thinking more proportionate boob implants for skinny chicks :P

Re:Ultra thin... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315278)

For cybersex ?

Arsenic compounds (2, Interesting)

Formalin (1945560) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314340)

I know there is already arsenic compounds in other devices (Some LED colours, GaAs based FETs, etc)

LED's aren't such an issue, because even when you kill them they usually stay contained within their epoxy. IC's and transistors on the other hand like to explode violently on occasion.

Just curious about the health hazards, if any apply. I've been known to kill some silicon on occasion ;-)

Sounds interesting anyway.

Re:Arsenic compounds (3, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314536)

I'd say a lot safer than that green wood you see in playground equipment that has been treated with an arsenic compound to stop termites from eating it (and that stuff has been tested a lot because some kid somewhere is going to chew it). If we are going to be irrationally scared of elements then Teflon would scare the crap out of everyone.
The answer as usual is how the stuff will behave with any bit of your body that it is likely to come in contact with and that decides what sort of hazard it is. For instance reactive stuff is an obvious hazard and things that will get into your lungs and never get out or break down another. This stuff is going to have very strong covalent bonds that stomach acid isn't going to touch.
Oddly enough someone at the University I was working at in 1998 made a very thin diode junction of a very similar material using chemical vapour deposition and he wasn't the first to do so. Making a thin layer of the stuff is relatively easy, making an isolated very tiny transistor is hard.

Re:Arsenic compounds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34316116)

Isn't the green stuff on wood copper-based?

Re:Arsenic compounds (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316682)

Yes, copper arsenate.

Re:Arsenic compounds (2, Informative)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316730)

Yes, and Arsenic. It's CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate)

However, this is being phased out for Alkaline Copper Quaternary or Copper Azole. In the EU, CCA is no longer allowed for domestic or residential applications. It's also being used more in north america now too.

Re:Arsenic compounds (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34317318)

It's both. [afhh.org] Chromated Copper Arsenate.

Re:Arsenic compounds (2, Informative)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320254)

As of about 4 years ago, the formulation for copper-based wood preservatives was changed to eliminate arsenic; the arsenic compounds becoming illegal for residential use in the United States. New compounds are copper azide and other copper-organics.

Re:Arsenic compounds (1)

orient (535927) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323194)

The garlic in your garlic bread has more arsenic that an IC...

And so much of it lieing around! (0, Offtopic)

Hecatonchires (231908) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314348)

Much easy to find than that pesky sand

But we are already running out of Indium... (0)

Duc de Montebello (751651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314354)

Re:But we are already running out of Indium... (3, Insightful)

aramosfet (1824288) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314402)

I hate it when people post links to articles which require me to login or subscribe to read. Could you atleast tell me whats the "single material" he's talking about?

Re:But we are already running out of Indium... (2, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314480)

Yeah, but if we need layers of about 10nm, I'm quite sure we have enough Indium to make a cpu that's larger than the entire surface of the Earth.

Re:But we are already running out of Indium... (2, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314848)

Yeah, but if we need layers of about 10nm, I'm quite sure we have enough Indium to make a cpu that's larger than the entire surface of the Earth.

Wow. With a CPU that big, we'd have enough computational ability to figure out what the question of 'Life, the Universe and Everything' is. We should be able to speed that up, since we can work backwards from the answer. That'd be spiffy.

Maybe we could run the Hurd on it, too.

Re:But we are already running out of Indium... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315624)

But will it run crysis?

Re:But we are already running out of Indium... (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316740)

I dunno if it would quite manage that tbh, maybe it would be able to, I don't know, talk all four leggs off of an Altarian Mega Donkey and then make it go for a walk afterwards?

Re:But we are already running out of Indium... (1)

damnfuct (861910) | more than 3 years ago | (#34318740)

Indium is also used in other devices, and known reserve is currently being depleted. If you have a bucket of water with a hole in it, adding a smaller hole won't make it drain any slower.

Four words why this is useless. (4, Informative)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314378)

Restriction of Hazardous Substances.

There are already a bunch of non-substitutable components that can't be used because of RoHS. Adding arsenic to make faster electronics is just not going to fly (it doesn't matter if current methods are just as toxic, everyone knows about Arsenic and RoHS is half PR). Researchers should be concentrating on making electronics less toxic so we don't keep poisoning African and Asian kids (working for electronics "recyclers") with last years iPhones.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (4, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314420)

We're talking about a 10nm layer across the surface of a chip - that's about a square centimeter. If anyone seriously complains about 50% of this being Arsenic, I would happily scrape it off and eat it in front of them. I don't think it would be a quantity large enough for the human eye to see.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314556)

multiplied by millions or billions of chips. k.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (3, Funny)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314766)

multiplied by millions or billions of chips. k.

He's only going to eat one... How many do you think the average person is going to eat?

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#34317910)

Very weird humour that for a number of reasons, but I love it!

Re:Four words why this is useless. (3, Interesting)

Graff (532189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314806)

multiplied by millions or billions of chips. k.

Spread out over 149 million square kilometers [universetoday.com] . At a billion chips that comes out to be less than 7 chips per square kilometer. As someone else pointed out, it's about 3 micrograms of arsenic per chip for a total of about 20 micrograms per square kilometer.

Yes, there can be higher concentrations in places like trash dumps but it's still going to take a gigantic amount of these chips in one spot before anyone would have any reasonable concerns about the environmental impact due to the arsenic levels.

Somehow I think we'll be just fine...

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

pastyM (1580389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315136)

Heck where I live (just south of Seattle, WA) I would not be surprised to find out that there is more then that amount of arsenic in just one hand full of dirt left behind from a long closed down smelting plant. (in Tacoma, WA)

Re:Four words why this is useless. (4, Informative)

bertok (226922) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314568)

That's just under 3 micrograms [wolframalpha.com] of arsenic. According to our trusted interwebs source, wikipedia: "The acute minimal lethal dose of arsenic in adults is estimated to be 70 to 200 mg". In other words, each chip contains about 1/25,000th of the lethal dose, in a non-soluble form.

I'll think you'll be fine.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314888)

That's just under 3 micrograms of arsenic. According to our trusted interwebs source, wikipedia: "The acute minimal lethal dose of arsenic in adults is estimated to be 70 to 200 mg". In other words, each chip contains about 1/25,000th of the lethal dose, in a non-soluble form.

Yeah, but if a child eats 25,000 of those chips, they could die! Won't anyone think of the children?!

Re:Four words why this is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34315792)

Yeah! And what if an ant ate one of those chips and died only to come back as a zombie ant!? What then? These fuckers can lift FIFTY times their own body weigh you know, and they even keep kicking after you cut their heads off. What if 25,000 ants ate one chip each and became a frikkin zombie army?!

I'm telling you man, 25,000 ants could eat a baby, would somebody PLEASE think of the children!?

Pass the bong dude.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

BranMan (29917) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323220)

You insensitive clod! 25,000 is an adult dose! Just eating 1,000 could kill a child. Oh the humanity!

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

am 2k (217885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316384)

The point here is, that the factory producing these chips would still have to handle the problematic material. Recently, a factory in Hungary demonstrated why this is a bad idea: Hungary: Toxic red sludge has reached the Danube [yahoo.com] .

Re:Four words why this is useless. (2, Funny)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 3 years ago | (#34318224)

Hungary: Toxic red sludge has reached the [Blue] Danube

So now we have the Purple Danube? Is Prince performing it?

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#34318664)

The point here is, that the factory producing these chips would still have to handle the problematic material. Recently, a factory in Hungary demonstrated why this is a bad idea: Hungary: Toxic red sludge has reached the Danube.

Making electronics tends to involve using some very hazardous substances. If it wasn't for the fact that the quantities involved are so miniscule, IC manufacturing would be considered a very hazardous occupation equivalent to some of worst industries around. Everyone thinks electronics is clean and safe because you see everyone in bunny suits in very clean facilities, but it really isn't.

Anyhow, arsenic is used in a lot of places - Gallium-Arsenide (GaAs) is a very common semiconductor. I believe it is commonly used in LEDs and semiconductor lasers.

And the biggest problem we have is the Earth's reserves of Indium are running out, so this may be DOA simply because we don't have the raw materials anymore. (Indium-Tin-Oxide, ITO, is used to make LCDs and touch screens - it's the transparent but electrically conductive material in these products). People are trying to find alternatives to ITO before we run out, though, but still.

And I believe RoHS doesn't apply because it's not readily exposed to the user. Lead used to be in solder, which was handled by people touching circuit boards and such, and the arsenic was used to make glass for LCDs and such, another item users handle. But the vast majority of people don't ever touch whatever tiny amount of arsenic is used inside the chip or even get close - there's packaging and other materials in the way. Otherwise LEDs would be banned.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320398)

Semiconductor fabricators are well-accustomed to handling toxic materials such as silane. LED manufacturers use arsenic in much larger quantities than the new technology requires. Quite simply, it is not a significant problem.

Arsenic is a solid. It's not going to leak away or evaporate into the atmosphere if a bottle of it cracks.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314798)

And watch the world laugh as you die from indium poisoning! Hah!


But seriously folks... Sure we know about arsenic and how miniscule amounts are probably OK in small amounts like that, but how is indium's toxicity? And what about indium arsenide itself? Is the whole more toxic than the sum of its parts?

Re:Four words why this is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314586)

You do realize Gallium Arsenide is used fairly ubiquitously in all sorts of electronic devices, right? Adding arsenic will certainly continue to fly, as it currently does, your fears about "poisoning african kids" (with a tiny amount of arsenic encased in a silicon shell) notwithstanding.

Also: (1)

crhylove (205956) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314614)

Yes, but will it blend?

Re:Four words why this is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314666)

(...)so we don't keep poisoning African and Asian kids (working for electronics "recyclers") with last years iPhones.

If only there was some other way to stop this happening...

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

badkarmadayaccount (1346167) | more than 3 years ago | (#34414930)

Butbutbutbutbutbut... IT'S TEH NUE SHAINIIIIIII - MASTER JOBZ SAIZ SO!!!!111!!!1!1ONEONONEONEELEVENTYONE!!!1!
I hate the caps filter.I hate the caps filter.I hate the caps filter.I hate the caps filter.I hate the caps filter.I hate the caps filter.I hate the caps filter.I hate the caps filter.I hate the caps filter.
Apple fanboi mods - don't you dare - you'll be really sorry.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314670)

Restriction of Hazardous Substances.

There are already a bunch of non-substitutable components that can't be used because of RoHS. Adding arsenic to make faster electronics is just not going to fly (it doesn't matter if current methods are just as toxic, everyone knows about Arsenic and RoHS is half PR). Researchers should be concentrating on making electronics less toxic so we don't keep poisoning African and Asian kids (working for electronics "recyclers") with last years iPhones.

Do you realize that these chips aren't edible don't you?

Also, as far as coming into contact with the actual chip, those things are embedded in their packaging, and not exactly removable without destroying them, or having very sophisticated equipment and a cleanroom.

And for what I can tell you know exactly jack shit about semiconductor manufacturing.

And those kids who are getting poisioned? Those aren't the chips that are poisoning them. Those are things like fumes from the solder, flux and similar materials used in the large scale manufacture of electronics.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314724)

Would it not be better to teach the African kids not to chew on discarded cell phones?

Re:Four words why this is useless. (2, Insightful)

tulcod (1056476) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315788)

And even if RoHS would not be an issue, this is not the stuff that will magically make future CPUs faster. The performance bottleneck of integrated circuits is (usually) wire delays. See, signals get sent from one transistor to another using aluminium wires. Those aluminium wires have a bit of resistance, and a bit of capacitance with other wires and the silicon substrate. Heck, more often than not they have so much capacitance with other wires that they get rerouted to avoid signal interference. So if all wires act like (very small) capacitors, and they all have (a tiny bit of) resistance, it takes some time (think sub-nanoseconds here) to build up charge on the other side of a wire, and that is what causes the biggest delays. Routing all wires as efficiently as possible is a research area in itself.

Then computers should be banned right now (1)

DavMz (1652411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316376)

Arsenic is already commonly used in the silicon processes for doping [wikipedia.org] purposes, so I don't think those new chips would be banned for containing it.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34320808)

Maybe we could also find better ways of recycling the stuff so that advancements in technology aren't held hostage to socioeconomic conditions. The idea that we as a species should not advance because someone somewhere is oppressed is ridiculous. This statement, however, is subject to ethics and does not apply in cases of gross negligence.

Re:Four words why this is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34323664)

Not to mention indium is in short supply....I heart LBNLerkeley but sometimes their research isn't very applicable.

Who's going to get a TSA hand-job? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314580)

Yeah, government union slobs whacking me off... Mmmm...

Why thin? (4, Funny)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314612)

I thought the purpose of silicone was to make the tits look *thicker*?

Re:Why thin? (0, Offtopic)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314746)

Well, to be precise, this topic is about solid silicone layers whereas the type of silicone you have in mind is gel, not solid.

Re:Why thin? (4, Insightful)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314794)

silicon != silicone, dammit.

Re:Why thin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314900)

Why not? Silicon breasts, silicone breasts... what's the difference? They're both hard and fake.

Re:Why thin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314926)

One is controlled by AI; the other is controlled by an inanimate object.

Re:Why thin? (1)

Nocturnal Deviant (974688) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316104)

God I wish I had mod points. I haven't laughed at a /. comment in a while.

Ultra-Thin Alternative to Silicone - FINALLY (2, Interesting)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314622)

This day has been a long time in coming. I'd like to congratulate everyone involved. Younger folks may not realize how important this news is. Thanks to this we FINALLY have a slashdot headline where "Natalie Portman" is actually on topic.

YUO FAIL IT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34314780)

those 0bligations. about who can rant toosers, went out Members are

What is the real advantage? (0, Redundant)

Fredde87 (946371) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314840)

This is all good when it comes to semiconductors, but the important question is what kind of a difference we can now expect to see in implants compared to the ones offered today?

About time (2, Insightful)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314956)

I thought this possible a year or so ago while goofing off with diodes, but imagined the method needed to prevent leakage from the alloy would be too difficult to implement on a small scale.

Glad to see I could be wrong. Science never ceases to amaze and educate me every single day.

Dumb Question (1)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 3 years ago | (#34314980)

Maybe a really dumb question. Why don't they use normal conductors? Wouldn't something that conducts electricity more efficiently generate much less heat and allow for higher clock cycles?

Re:Dumb Question (2, Informative)

Raptoer (984438) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315318)

Put simply, the way a transistor works requires the use of semiconductors. It's a property other than resistance which the transistor requires. When not in a transistor, materials with a high conductivity are used.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34316442)

Actually - not if you create a tunnelling transistor - look up Metal-Insulator-Metal transistors.

Re:Dumb Question (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 3 years ago | (#34320572)

The property that makes semiconductors necessary is the ability to change the rate of electron flow through the material by the application of electrical signals into or near the material. This is much more difficult to do in a useful manner with metals than with semiconductors.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34331224)

for the same reason you don't make a racetrack faster by covering it in ice.

Why Bother? (2, Interesting)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315834)

I don't see the point of this when comparing the potential of Graphene based processors. These things, when (not if) they become reality, will have the same impact that perfecting Fusion power will. There's just no reason to spend the time trying to eek out a few more percent when the second that we manage to get the better technology to work, we'll no longer need anything else.

That's incredibly naiive (3, Insightful)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315956)

If this process is simpler and quicker to reach the fabs, and produces a notable performance increase, then it's worth it to develop. Someone will want to buy it, and that means someone will want to develop it.

Just to hammer it home: why do you bother, ever, to upgrade your hardware, knowing it'll one day be obsolete?

Re:That's incredibly naiive (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34323522)

(foo)arsenide... that means it has Arsenic in it and that's just more nasty stuff that we have to deal with in our landfills. Iridium is also a whopping $795 an ounce as of today. Mainstream chip manufacturers won't like a 2-3x hike in price that's likely to happen if they start using most of the world's production for chip making.

It takes a couple of years or more as well to actually develop a chip and the manufacturing process to make it in bulk, so neither is more than in the R&D stage for a while anyways. In terms of this technology, it's at exactly where Graphene was a year ago - a prototype nano-scale transistor.

Is it interesting? Sure. But 300Ghz(current max, likely much higher) and incredible heat tolerance - with common and safe materials is a hat trick that's not going to be probably equaled in our lifetimes. If ever. It's hard to imagine anything more stable and fault-tolerant than graphite.

Graphene and Graphene compounds are essentially the Holy Grail of chip design and it's silly to pour money into anything else at this stage. So in addition, while this might be great in a lab, the chip makers aren't going to spend the actual hard cash on it with Graphene's potential payout staring them in the face and singing sweet songs to them.

Re:Why Bother? (2, Informative)

the_pooh_experience (596177) | more than 3 years ago | (#34315982)

Because it is possible and demonstratable to grow InAs today. It is grown in bulk, single crystal material. Graphene, while making strides in the "manufacturable" direction, is still practically relegated to grad students shaving pencils with razors onto tape to get a single monolayer film.

Re:Why Bother? (1)

Ramble (940291) | more than 3 years ago | (#34317488)

Because there is still quite a ways to go with graphene based devices.

Another III-V semiconductor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34316278)

This is interesting from a technical perspective, but I doubt that it will catch on commercially. First, Silicon is just too cheap, and the manufacturing has been refined for decades. Convincing manufacturers to switch to another matierial is going to be an uphill battle, at best. Second, Silicon offers something that few other semiconductor processes have -- relatively close electron and hole mobilities (usually around a factor of 2). Even though it's not spectacular, the similar mobilities make the construction of both N-type and P-type transistors practical, enabling CMOS architecture. Try building a computer with only N-type devices; it's been done, but ain't too efficient.
    Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) and Indium Phosphide (InP), also both III-V semiconductors, among many others, have been around a long time and certainly have their niche markets. Their electron mobilities are orders of magnitude higher than Silicon and they have other nice benefits over Silicon (high breakdown, semi-insulating substrate, etc); still, they just can't compete in the commercial market.

Indium Shortage?? (1)

John Allsup (987) | more than 3 years ago | (#34316680)

I read the other day that indium may well become hard to come by in the not too distant future... indium tin oxide is heavily used in the now trendy touch screen displays, so will this technology become mainstream before the indium reserves run dry???

Ultra light alternative to bloated software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34317332)

How come there's never a breakthrough in software? Why is it always on the hardware guys to improve things?

alternatives before SILICON! (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#34318164)

Silicon only become the predominate material in the 1970s when it became insanely cheap to manufacture integrated circuits with it. Before then there was germanium, gallium, arsium, etc. Diamond, graphene,indium, and other materials make pretty good transistors. But can you put a billion of them in a couple square centimeters at a millionth of a cent per transistor?

Re:alternatives before SILICON! (1)

Hazelfield (1557317) | more than 3 years ago | (#34322672)

As a matter of fact, silicon is not primarily used because of its low price - even though that IS a factor - but because of the excellent electrical properties of the interface between silicon and silicon dioxide. The silicon is a good conductor when doped with boron or phosphorus, the oxide is a very good isolator, and the interface is extremely smooth. The oxide can be grown to any desired thickness in a process that can be tightly controlled. All this means that the silicon technology scales down better than that of any other semiconductor.

Gallium arsenide, silicon carbide and several other semiconductors are used in many areas due to their particular strengths (most notably the direct bandgap of many III-V semiconductors makes it possible to build solar cells and diodes out of them), but when it comes to making very, very small things, silicon is king.
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