Researchers from Tel Aviv University have engineered the world’s tiniest technology, with a thickness of only 2 atoms. Consistent to the researchers, the new technology that proposes a-way for storing electric information within the thinnest unit known to science, in one among the foremost stable & inert materials in nature. The allowed quantum-mechanical electron tunneling through the atomically thin film may boost the data reading process much beyond current technologies.
The research was performed by scientists from the Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy and Raymond & Beverly Sackler School of Chemistry. The group includes Maayan Vizner Stern, Yuval Waschitz, Dr. Wei Cao, Dr. Iftach Nevo, Prof. Eran Sela, Prof. Michael Urbakh, Prof. Oded Hod, & Dr. Moshe Ben Shalom. The work is published in Science magazine.
“Our research stems from curiosity about the behavior of atoms & electrons in solid materials, which has generated many of the technology supporting our modern way of life,” says Dr. Shalom. “We and many other scientists attempt to understand, predict, and even control the fascinating properties of those particles as they condense into an ordered structure that we call a crystal. At the heart of the PC, for instance , lies a small crystalline device designed to-switch between 2 states indicating different responses—’yes’ or ‘no,” ‘up’ or ‘down’ etc. Without this dichotomy—it isn’t possible to encode and process information. The sensible challenge is to seek out a mechanism that might enable switching in small, fast, & cheap device.”
Current state-of-the-art devices contains tiny crystals that contain only a few million atoms (about 100 atoms tall , width, & thickness) in order that 1,000,000 of those devices are often squeezed a few million times into the area of 1 coin, with each device switching at a speed of a few million times per second.
Following the technological breakthrough, the researchers were able, for the 1st time, to decrease the thickness of the crystalline devices to 2 atoms only. Dr. Shalom emphasizes that such a skinny structure enables memories supported the quantum ability of electrons to hop quickly and efficiently through barriers that are just several atoms thick. Thus, it’s going to significantly improve electronic devices in terms of speed, density, & energy consumption.
In the study, the researchers used a 2-dimensional material: 1-atom-thick layers of boron & nitrogen, arranged in repetitive hexagonal structure. In their experiment, they were ready to break the symmetry of this crystal by artificially assembling two such layers. “In its natural 3-dimensional state, this material is formed from a large amount of number of layers placed on top of every other, with each layer rotated 180 degrees relative to its neighbors (antiparallel configuration)” says Dr. Shalom. “In the lab, we were ready to artificially stack the layers in parallel configuration with no rotation, which hypothetically places atoms of an equivalent kind in perfect overlap despite the strong repulsion between them (resulting from their identical charges). In actual fact, however, the crystal prefers to-slide 1 layer slightly in-relation to other, in order that only half each layer’s atoms are in perfect overlap, and people that do overlap are of opposite charges—while all others are located above or below an empty space—the center of the hexagon. This artificial stacking configuration the layers are quite distinct from each other . For instance , if within the top layer only the boron atoms overlap, within the bottom layer it is the other way around.”
Dr. Shalom also highlights the work of theory team, who conducted numerous computer simulations “Together we established deep understanding of why the system’s electrons arrange themselves even as we had measured in lab. because of this fundamental understanding, we expect fascinating responses in other symmetry-broken layered systems also ,” he says.
Maayan Wizner Stern, the Ph.D. student who led the study, explains that “the symmetry breaking we created in laboratory, which doesn’t exist within the natural crystal, forces the electrical charge to reorganize itself between the layers & generate a small internal electrical polarization perpendicular to the layer plane. once we apply an external field within the other side of the system slides laterally to switch polarization orientation. The switched polarization remains stable even when the external field is off or shut down. This system is analogous to thick 3-dimensional ferroelectric systems, which are widely utilized in technology today.”
“The ability to force a crystalline & electronic arrangement in such a skinny or thin system, with unique polarization & inversion properties resulting from the weak Van der Waals forces between the layers, isn’t limited to the boron and nitrogen crystal,” adds Dr. Shalom. “We expect an equivalent behaviors in many layered crystals with the proper symmetry properties. The concept of interlayer sliding as an ingenious & efficient way-to control advanced electronic devices is extremely promising, and that we have named it Slide-Tronics.”
Stern concludes that they “are excited about discovering what can happen in other states we force upon nature & predict that other structures that couple additional degrees of freedom are possible. We hope that miniaturization and flipping through sliding will improve today’s electronic devices, and moreover, allow other original ways of controlling information in future devices. Additionally to computer devices, we expect that this technology will contribute to detectors, energy storage & conversion, interaction with light, etc. Our challenge, as we see it, is-to discover more-crystals with new and slippery degrees of freedom.”
The findings were published in the Journal of Science.