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World's first ultra-thin, low energy molybdenite microchip tested


December 6, 2011

The world's first molybdenite microchip has been successfully tested in Switzerland.

The world's first molybdenite microchip has been successfully tested in Switzerland.

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Back in February, Darren Quick wrote about the unique properties of Molybdenite and how this material, previously used mostly as a lubricant, could actually outshine silicon in the construction of transistors and other electronic circuits. In brief: it's much more energy efficient than silicon, and you can slice it into strips just three atoms thick - meaning that you can make transistors as much as three times smaller than before, and make them flexible to boot. Well, the technology has now been proven with the successful testing of the world's first molybdenite microchip in Switzerland. Does this mean Lausanne will become known as "Molybdenite Valley?"

Silicon currently underpins nearly every aspect of our technological lives, as the main ingredient in the semiconductors that are used in most electronic devices. But engineers are approaching the limits of its capabilities as we continue to try to make things smaller, lighter and more portable. Silicon layers start to oxidize at anything less than two nanometers in thickness, making them useless as electronic components.

Moybdenite (molybdenum disulphide or MoS2), on the other hand, can be sliced much thinner - down to just three atoms in thickness - and it seems this freely available metal has two other key advantages.

Firstly, transistors made from MoS2 can be put into "on" or "off" states much quicker, and with less energy, than their silicon brothers - so in theory, a molybdenite computer could be made significantly faster and more energy efficient than the current technology allows.

And secondly, it appears to be suitable for use in flexible electronics - opening up the potential for all sorts of computerized clothing, roll-up computers and even electronics that interface directly with human tissue.

Andras Kis, director of Switzerland's Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES), announced yesterday that the first working molybdenite chip has been successfully tested: "We have built an initial prototype, putting from two to six serial transistors in place, and shown that basic binary logic operations were possible, which proves that we can make a larger chip."

Will it be better than carbon-based graphene? Well, it seems it has some advantages, particularly in building tiny transistors - but the two materials will likely do their best work in tandem, according to Kis.

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade. All articles by Loz Blain

I realize the the excitement of new discoveries can make people bubble over with enthusiasm, but I regularly see the phrase, \"...as much as three times smaller...\". in the Gizmag articles. It just does not seem right to use a multiplier when describing something that is shrinking. It could be said that the technology allows... \"...as little as one third of the previous size\".


Awesome, soon a 50 core mac tower:)

Paul Perkins

I\'ve read about so many promising technologies lately and if only 1% of them come to fruition I think the next 20 years will be extremely interesting.

Dana Lawton

Yes indeed really dope news. But I have a feeling that they are hiding way more sophisticated technologies somewhere in the dungeons 8))

Kirill Belousov

Moores Law lives a little longer :-)


LOL! Yeah, if Moore only knew how right he was. And to be honest, I don\'t care if the technology shrinks so much as I like the idea that the tech is so much more efficient. Take my current Core i7 and use this stuff and you get slightly more speed and a lower use of power. Then down clock to the equivalent speed and you get even MORE power. I don\'t use the speed I have now, so I\'m sure having more battery life would be a bigger gain for me.

Matthew Kernes

" I have a feeling that they are hiding way more sophisticated technologies somewhere in the dungeons ..."

That is the difference between an enthusiastic press release and practical reality. Which is why you don't see any computers made from tunnel diodes, or flying cars. Many great ideas come to a screeching halt against economic realities or unforeseen natural limitations.

Captain Obvious
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