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article imageTime to move on from silicon based electronics?

By Tim Sandle     Oct 25, 2018 in Science
Silicon has served the electronics sector well, but is it time to move beyond the abundant element and to consider other materials as technology advances? A research paper investigates new organometallic materials.
Silicon has served as an efficient semiconductor and its use was pioneering for the ‘white heat of technology’ (to paraphrase Harold Wilson) boom that began during the 1960s and with Santa Clara Valley in California acquiring the nickname Silicon Valley.
Semiconductors at the present in microprocessor chips as well as transistors, to the extent that anything that is computerized or uses radio waves requires semiconductors. Silicon has a special property with its electron structure, having four electrons in its outer orbital. The four electrons form perfect covalent bonds. While pure silicon is not a conductor of electricity, the process of doping (the adding of impurities) will change the behavior of silicon and turn it into a conductor, thus leading to mass produced electronics.
New research suggests that new organometallic materials could replace silicon as a semiconductor. This has been demonstrated in recent studies performed by a consortium of scientists, led by the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research MPI-P. These are chemical compounds containing at least one chemical bond between a carbon atom of an organic molecule and a metal.
The material may have a role in advanced technology like optoelectronics, which concerns the study and application of electronic devices and systems that source, detect and control light. This type of technology could assist with advancing solar cells, for example.
The new material is described as cost-effective and as a "metal-organic framework". Tests show the material to possess similar electrical properties to silicon. The material has a highly crystalline solid body, according to EE News Europe, composed of iron ions bonded together by organic molecules, as seen through advanced spectroscopy. The study demonstrated that as an external electric field (voltage) is applied, the electrons in the material are able to move freely throughout the material.
Due to the metal-organic network composition the material could be produced at room temperature, unlike silicon. The next wave of the research will be to modify and predict the electronic properties of the material.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Materials. The research paper is titled “High-mobility band-like charge transport in a semiconducting two-dimensional metal–organic framework.”
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