Graphene is definitely the darling of scientific technology and unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last six months, you’ve probably heard all about its amazing potential. Graphene was discovered just over a decade ago, purely by accident, and as well as many other wonderful properties, it has been heralded as the fastest transistor known to mankind. But there have been many issues with regards to producing this on a larger scale. Even though the multinational companies that are currently in competition to be the first to manage this feat are confident that they will crack this before too long, perhaps their efforts will be in vain.
Perhaps the issue with creating Graphene on a larger scale is all part of God’s plan, to coin a phrase. Because it seems that we already have another material that can play a similar role, and this could be the cause a lot of red faces within the world of science.
The material in question is no other than Phosphorene and due to its excellent semiconductor properties it could be used to help create the next generation of computers. Students of the Purdue University have actually suggested that Phosphorene is a better choice of conductor than the much heralded Graphene. They argue that Graphene ironically conducts electricity a little too easily.
Production of Phosphorene
If you have read about the way that Graphene was accidently created in the Manchester University, you’ll probably recollect the rather amusing sticky tape process that actually created the first samples. Researchers at Purdue University certainly had a similar plan on their agenda and they mirrored this activity with phosphorous crystals as a substitute. The gamble certainly paid off and they were rewarded with Phosphorene.
Scotch tape technique
It is pretty unlikely that the original Nobel prize winning team from Manchester could ever imagine that their flaky sticky tape attempts would be reproduced, but the ‘Scotch tape technique’ looks likely to be recorded alongside far more technical scientific discoveries that have led to new discoveries in the annals of scientific history.
The intrepid researchers from Purdue University wasted no time and quickly started testing the few atoms thick sheets of Phosphorene for their experiments. They managed to create simple but realistic transistors from these tiny layers and the results certainly justified the efforts. As well as proving to be excellent transistors of electricity, Phosphorene can also be integrated with silicon and other two-dimensional materials.
Round one to Phosphorene
Because Graphene has been semi exposed as being a little too effective when it comes to conducting electricity, it appears that Phosphorene has no such issues. The natural semi-conductor properties have meant that Phosphorene quite possibly leapfrogs over Graphene and that is something that could have real repercussions all around the scientific globe.
Sanka Das Sarma
The University of Maryland’s Sankar Das Sarma has done considerable work on Phosphorene since its discovery and whilst he fully acknowledges the fact that it may well beat Graphene to the finishing line, he is concerned about a similar detail that has stopped its more famous sibling material in its tracks.
Just as the two materials share the same initial rudimentary method of extraction, they both have managed to stump the brilliant minds who are struggling to mass produce these super conductors. As Sankar Das Sarma explained, ‘Obviously, technology cannot depend on Scotch tape extraction’.
As we touched on earlier, Graphene’s excellent conduction properties mean that it may be a little too perfect for its proposed role as the saviour of modern computing. Another Purdue University researcher, Peide Ye, recognises this basic limitation and has pointed out the positive attributes that Phosphorene offers. This material shares the semi-conducting features with silicone and this will make it a far better match for computer transistor production.
The semi-conductor features that Phosphorene has, as opposed to Graphene, means that as well as being able to conduct electricity, it also has the properties required to block the same force. This allows for a switching possibility that defines all transistors. The heart of every computer contains a binary based logical heart, so this certainly makes that discovery in Purdue University at least as exciting as the Graphene that was produced a decade earlier in North-West England.
On the other side of the globe it appears that Phosphorene is being utilised in a fastidious manner. Fudan University in Shanghai are hard at work with Phosphorene transistors and Yuanbo Zhang is leading the project team with some gusto.
So far it seems that Phosphorene is ticking all of the boxes which are more than can be said for its rivals. Silicene has a similar structure and was thought to have a similar potential in the past, but they had yet to realise that this super-thin silicone layered material also had the tendency to self-destruct.