Magazine article Science News

Graphene Alternative Introduced: Phosphorene May Lead to Faster Semiconductor Electronics

Magazine article Science News

Graphene Alternative Introduced: Phosphorene May Lead to Faster Semiconductor Electronics

Article excerpt

Phosphorus has become the second element after carbon to be separated into sheets each a single atom thick, researchers announced March 7. The ultrathin material, dubbed phosphorene, could prove superior to its carbon counterpart for use in next-generation electronics.

Graphene, which consists of a flat honeycomb lattice of carbon atoms, has been the darling of materials scientists since 2004. Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov peeled off sheets of graphite with Scotch tape, a simple step that produced graphene and was rewarded with the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics (SN: 10/23/10, p.16). Among graphene's remarkable properties is that it can shuttle electrons rapidly while hardly heating up, which led some scientists to predict that it could replace silicon in computers and other electronics.

But graphene has one major and perhaps fatal flaw: Turning off the electron flow through the material is difficult. Silicon is a semiconductor, allowing transistors in computer chips to switch electric current on and off; graphene is a conductor. Some physicists say it's time to look for other thin materials that share the attractive properties of graphene but are semiconductors. "Graphene is beautiful, interesting and useless," says David Tomanek, a physicist at Michigan State University.

While some scientists have moved on to compounds such as molybdenum disulfide, Tomanek's colleague Peide Ye, a physicist at Purdue University, decided to explore black phosphorus, a stable variety of the element that forms under high temperature and pressure. …

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