Recently, a team at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has created a new, cheaper material that could eventually replace silicon in modern electronics. Researchers and companies have searched for other metals that could address some of the downsides of silicon. This metal serves as a crucial material in our devices, from computers to cell phones. This metal serves many essential functions in important electronics. This metal operates as a semiconductor in transistors, computer chips, circuit boards, and more. While reliable and dependable, the processes and chemicals that are required to produce these essential products are expensive and are hazardous for the environment.
Olga Ochinnikova and Alex Belianinov, along with their team at the ORNL, have been utilizing a process known as sandblasting to “grow” circuitry into metal. Not only is this process less time consuming than utilizing silicon, but the material produced is also more versatile than silicon and can easily be integrated into phones, computers, and other electronic devices. Also, the 2-D material is more flexible than silicon, so fitting the material into smaller devices would be easier. In Breaking Energy, Belianinov also stated, “2-D devices stand out as having low power consumption and being easier and less expensive to fabricate without requiring harsh chemicals that are potentially harmful to the environment.” Using 2-D materials as batteries for devices such as cellphones and computers could lengthen battery life over devices that currently use silicon. There is also the added benefit that companies would no longer have to use the hazardous chemicals used in silicon production, minimizing the environmental impact.
Due to this discovery, the future may be a bit brighter for consumers as well as for those in the electronics field. Since 2-D materials can hold a longer charge, people would be able to use their devices for more extended periods of time without worrying about their battery life. Devices would likely be able to run more efficiently with 2-D materials than if they were still using silicon. Even though 2-D electronics are not currently available in consumer devices, they may be available in a few years – giving consumers much to look forward to.