What Materials Will Take Place of Silicon in Future Tech?
Silicon has been holding the crucial importance in the field of electronics for more than 70 years. Starting from the very first giant desktop calculators to modern era’s compact smartphones, all the electronics devices would not be in existence without silicon. Silicon has a very unique fundamental property that allows it to be used as both conductor and insulator, for different amounts of current.
However, silicon could not cope up with recent advancement in electronics due to some of its limitations. It has basically reached its limitations. In 1965, Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, gave a statement that the number of transistors in each silicon chip will double every year. It is also known as Moore’s law. But as the number of transistors per computer chip increases and the size of transistors decreases, silicon loses its functionality due to reduced electron mobility. Which can create a diversion in further advancement of electronics. So it became highly important to find a suitable replacement that has high electron mobility even at small size.
Apart from that, silicon is bad for the environment and health. Production of silicon is harmful to the environment as it releases carbon monoxide. Moreover, harvesting silicon poses a health risk for all those individuals who are involved in its harvest. For example, excessive exposure and inhalation of silicon dust during mining causes Silicosis. Workers in silicon mines most often suffer through this disease and its associated negative effects.
So, for all these reasons, many researchers have started working on finding the best new material to replace silicon in electronics. Let’s discuss which are those elements that can be seen as a more sustainable and environment friendly solution.
Gallium Nitride (GaN) can survive at higher temperatures than silicon, using it can influence design in more complicated environments. For example, the electronics in a vehicle are mounted far away from the engine to keep them from getting too hot. Gallium Nitride is free from such constraints and could open up new possibilities for designing vehicles in near future.
The material has already been used in another field of electronics such as lasers and photonics. GaN is one of the few materials to give off blue light. Hence it can be used in Blu-rays to make disc-reading possible. Some scientists have also developed tiny GaN lasers with the size of a micron, which is 1/100th the size of a human hair and too small to see with the naked eye, that can be used in microscopes to make research more precise.
The two-dimensional nature of GaN has allowed engineers to replicate an expensive film of gallium multiple times over onto a film of graphene. This further emphasizes the usefulness of graphene as a solution for sustainable electronics manufacturing. Graphene may have limited applications in microchip production, but it can still cheaply replicate more efficient materials.
Perovskites that can be considered as a replacement to silicon in the field of solar energy and photovoltaics. However, Perovskites’ key disadvantage is its instability for mass production for commercial application. Many variables can cause damage or imperfections that must be smoothed out before perovskite is deployed for mass production.
Scientists from Stanford University have found two semiconductor materials named Hafnium Diselenide and Zirconium Diselenide, which provide similar functionality to silicon while being much thinner than silicon. Because of their high-k dielectric nature, the researchers were able to make functional electronics circuits out of these materials, that are only three atoms thick. These circuits are proven to be more efficient as they require less energy for switching.Apart from these alternative semiconductor materials, many researchers are on the quest to discover more sustainable and efficient material. Hence it is safe to say that the time is not far away, which eventually led to the formation of more organic and efficient material that will revolutionize the electronics industry once again, but in a much more eco-friendly way.