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From Past to Future, Germanium May Revolutionize Computers Again

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 04:09PM

Over sixty years ago the first transistors were developed and were quite different from today's critical computing component in a number of ways. Perhaps the most obvious difference is that in the beginning they were the size of a thumbnail, while today they are measured in nanometers. Another difference though may be undone in the future, thanks to researchers at The Ohio State University.

The current dominate material in electronics is the semiconductor, silicon, but those first transistors were made from germanium, another semiconductor still used today, but is less common. That may change though as the researchers have isolated germanane, the germanium equivalent to graphene. Both graphene and germanane are single-atom thick sheets of their respective elements and conductor electrons at high speed, but germanane has the important property of being a semiconductor, unlike graphene. Researchers have been trying to create it for some time but the germanium atoms from one sheet kept binding to others, making multilayered crystals. To overcome this, the researchers forced calcium atoms between the layers before replacing them with hydrogen atoms. The bonds with the hydrogen atoms were so weak though that the layers of germanane could be successfully pulled apart.

While the electron mobility for germanane is definitely valuable, another property should also be. Unlike silicon and bulk germanium, germanane has a 'direct band gap,' which means it absorbs and emits light very easily; an important property for future optoelectronics.

Source: The Ohio State University

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