The 2D material ‘gold rush’ continues apace

1 min read

Since graphene – the single layer version of graphite – was isolated in 2004 by Manchester academics Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, there has been something akin to the old fashioned ‘gold rush’ as scientists looked develop applications for the so called wonder material.

Partly, the excitement was due to graphene being seen as a potential replacement for CMOS when Moore’s Law ‘hit the wall’. Unfortunately, graphene’s lack of a band gap meant it couldn’t be used as a switching medium.

Undaunted, researchers plunged into the new world of 2D materials – the so called monolayers – in attempts to find materials that might fit the bill. That work has thrown up a number of candidates, including MoS2, boron nitride and black phosphorus, and many more potential applications.

Researching these materials is one thing; showing they can be used ‘in anger’ is another. But a team from Stanford University says it has done just this. By refining chemical vapour deposition, the team created a three atom thick layer of molybdenum and sulphur atoms, then patterned the material into electrical switches.

Meanwhile, a team from the University of Texas at Dallas says it thinks ultra thin layers of transition metal dichalcogenides could act as transistors.

The common factor between both strands of research is that it’s early days and there’s a long way to go before laboratory experiments are translated into commercial processes.

We know CMOS will hit the wall; but will an industry that has relied on silicon for decades embrace a 2D future or will it cling to the last node?