Researchers based in Switzerland have developed a microchip using molybdenite (MoS2), a material which they say can 'surpass the physical limits of silicon in terms of miniaturisation, electricity consumption and mechanical flexibility.'
It is the first time a microchip has been created using the dark-coloured, naturally occurring and relatively abundant material which is commonly used as a plastic strengthening agent and an ingredient in engine lubricants.
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"We have built an initial prototype, putting from two to six serial transistors in place, and shown that basic binary logic operations were possible, which proves that we can make a larger chip," said Andras Kis, Director at the Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES).
The researchers noted that up until this point, it has not been possible to make layers of silicon less than two nanometers thick because of the risk of starting a chemical reaction which would oxidise the surface and compromise its electronic properties. However, molybdenite layers could potentially be only three atoms thick, making chips three times small a distinct possibility.
Commenting on the efficiency of MoS2 transistors, Kis noted: "They can be turned on and off much more quickly, and can be put into a more complete standby mode.
"The main advantage of MoS2 is that it allows us to reduce the size of transistors, and thus to further miniaturise them," he added.