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Electronics: Replacing silicon microprocessors

Nature Communications

April 12, 2017

A microprocessor built using a semiconductor that is only few atoms thick is demonstrated in a paper published in Nature Communications. This technological advance may facilitate the transition from conventional silicon electronics to atomically flat nano-electronics.

Thomas Mueller and colleagues provide a working demonstration of the most complex microprocessor entirely made of a semiconductor reported to date. It is made from a two-dimensional material called molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), and the circuitry consists of 115 atomically flat integrated transistors. Like traditional silicon microprocessors, this MoS2 computer can execute user-defined programs stored in an external memory, perform logical operations and transmit data to the device periphery. Owing to its atomically flat nature, the two-dimensional microprocessor is not plagued by the challenges that increasing circuitry complexity and transistor miniaturisation are posing to conventional, bulky, three-dimensional silicon electronics. Although concerns have been raised that the integration limits of silicon electronics may soon be reached, there is, in principle, no physical limit to how small two-dimensional transistors can be made.

The demonstrated two-dimensional microprocessor is already compatible with the existing semiconductor manufacturing processes, and is also readily scalable to more complex architectures and functionalities, thus, it could provide a viable and performing alternative to silicon, the authors conclude.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms14948

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