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Molybdenite Circuits May Supplant Silicon

By Matt Simpson - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Move over, silicon, molybdenite is here to take over the IC (integrated circuit) business. Where silicon fails, a molybdenum sulfide option will allow chips to be smaller, faster, run cooler, and require less power. Did I mention it’s also highly flexible, so that wristband computer may not be far off.

The days of using silicon in chips are numbered. It simply cannot be designed into a circuit and shrunk much more than it already has. There are several other technologies vying for the position of new material of choice for circuits to be printed on, such as Graphene and Quantum Dots. Compared to these future tech materials, molybdenite is a much less far out option, and could be adapted to the task much easier.

Moore’s Law

This is a trend which has continued to prove true throughout the history of computing. Moore’s Law states that every 2 years, the amount of transistors that can be squeezed into a chip will double. There have been many instances since it was developed that the end of Moore’s Law was predicted. However, in each instance, some new technology has allowed chip makers to shrink the size of the transistors, allowing more of them to be fit within the same space.

Due to the limitations of silicon, which has been the material of choice for integrated circuits for most of their history, it has become more and more difficult to keep up with Moore’s Law. In recent years, as transistor dies have shrunk to 28nm and below, new problems such as voltage leakage between neighboring transistors have cropped up, yet engineers have still been able to resolve these technical issues.

The Future Of Silicon

If we continue to use Silicon into the future, we can finally predict the point where Moore’s Law will fail. Silicon’s absolute minimum die size is said to be in the 2-3 nm size. Anything smaller than that and the silicon itself becomes unstable and will oxidize quickly, destroying the circuit. No amount of high tech wizardry is going to get around the limitations this time. Something will have to be done at a basic level before we can expect to keep up with Moore’s Law in the future.

Molybdenite Disulfide

MoS2 or Molybdenite Disulfide has many of the same properties as silicon but with some major advantages which we will likely be able to leverage in the near future. Compared to the limitations of silicon in stability in narrow layers, Molybdenite Disulfide can be used in sheets are narrow as 3 atoms wide. Depending on the atom in question, this comes out to approximately .3 to .5 nm. That is several times smaller than silicon chips could even theoretically be produced and will give us enough time perfect those far out quantum dots

Another advantage of Molybdenite Disulfide and perhaps one closer to home is its inherent flexibility. The applications or a flexible IC are virtually limitless and it seems likely this will be the first major application we see this new material being used for. Molybdenite Disulfide is a plentiful material that is occurs naturally on earth, so there will be no shortage or huge expense in production as there are with some exotic materials. The work on this material has been largely the work of the Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures. In less than a year’s time, they have gone from demoing a single transistor to a fully integrated circuit, so things are moving forward quickly for this new and seemingly highly viable replacement for silicon.

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