Queen’s University physicists have discovered how electricity is conducted in a type of two-dimensional material – a breakthrough that could herald a new era in electronics.
The discovery has the potential to revolutionise the development of the tiny electronic devices that control everything from smart phones to transport and from banking to medical technology.
The team analysed the electrical conduction properties of ‘domain walls’ – sheets of material just one atom thick. Such sheets, are a bit like the “wonder-material” graphene in the range of properties that they can display and in their 2-dimensional character. However, unlike graphene, they can be created and destroyed and moved from one place to another within the host crystal. This dynamic behaviour can allow nanoscale electrical connections made using the sheets to be reconfigured, wiped clean or completely recreated.
Such dynamic reconfigurable nano-circuitry is heralded as opening the door to a completely new way of processing and manipulating data and information beyond Moore’s Law. However, a significant challenge facing the research community has been in developing a mechanistic understanding of how electrical conduction occurs in these sheets.
The Queen’s team has undertaken the first set of experiments to determine unequivocally the process by which electrical conduction along these mobile sheet materials occurs. The findings provide building blocks of information on such new 2D materials – a breakthrough that could revolutionise the future of electronics in the next century. The team invented a new microscopy technique to analyse the electrical conduction properties of domain walls, sheets of material just one atom thick.
The research, led by physicists Professor Marty Gregg and Dr Amit Kumar at Queen’s School of Mathematics and Physics, is reported in Nature Communications (12 December 2016).