Thinness like an Atom: A Revolutionary Semiconductor for Electronics

Semiconductors, as thin as an atom, are no more future music. The Bayreuth physicist Prof. Dr. Axel Enders has developed a two-dimensional material together with US-American and Polish partners, which could revolutionize electronics. Due to its semiconductor properties, it could be far better suited for high-tech applications than graphs, the discovery of which was celebrated worldwide in 2004 as a scientific breakthrough. The new material contains carbon, boron and nitrogen, the chemical name is "Hexagonal Boron Carbon Nitrogen (h-BCN)". The new development is presented in the magazine "ACS Nano".

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3D structure model of the new material h-BCN. Photo: Axel Enders; For publication.

“Our development can be the starting point for a new generation of electronic transistors, circuits and sensors that are many times smaller and more flexible than previous electronic elements. They are expected to significantly reduce power consumption, “predicts Prof. Enders, pointing to CMOS technology, which is currently dominated by electronics. This technology has clear limits with regard to further miniaturization. “In order to exceed this barrier, h-BCN is far better than graphs, although it is structured as graphs,” says the Bayreuth physicist.

Graphene is a lattice of carbon atoms which are cross-linked with one another only in the surface, ie only in two dimensions. The grid is therefore as thin as a single atom. When this structure was investigated more closely after its discovery, its enormous stability caused worldwide enthusiasm.Graph is 100 to 300 times stronger than steel and at the same time an excellent conductor for heat and electricity. However, electrons flow unhindered at any electrical voltage, so there are no defined ‘on’ and ‘off’ states.

“This is why graphene is unsuitable for electronic components. For this purpose, semiconductors are required because only they provide switchable ‘on’ and ‘off’ states, “explains Prof. Enders. He therefore had the idea of ​​exchanging individual carbon atoms in the graph by boron and nitrogen, in such a way that a two-dimensional lattice with the properties of a semiconductor is formed.

In a team of scientists at the University of Lincoln-Nebraska, he has now been able to achieve this goal. Research partners at the University of Cracow as well as at the State University of New York, Boston College and Tufts University in Massachusetts have also contributed to this research success.