Computing systems are exploring endless possibilities through quantum mechanics. Scientists are thinking of computing in terms of atoms nowadays. The newest concept material is essentially a single tin atom layer. Yet to materialize, the single layer of atom is so unique in characteristics from the parent metal, that scientists are calling it by a different name altogether. The new name ‘stanene’ is essentially a combination of tin (stannum) and grapheme. Graphene was among the first materials that allowed scientists to design in atomic levels.
The development of stanene was in collaboration of the Stanford University and the SLAC National accelerator Laboratory. The laboratory is an extended branch of the US Department of Energy. The new material could revolutionize the computing paradigm by being an effective replacement to copper wires used in the computer chips.
Speaking on the revolutionary discovery, Shoucheng Zhang, the project team leader and eminent professor of Physics at Stanford explained that the new material could effectively increase the computing speed while staying low on power consumption. The team developed stanene in the context of the recent trends of the computer chip manufacturing network across the world.
Copper is the current material in developing chips. There are several reasons attributing to this applicability of the metal. Copper is highly ductile, enabling manufacturers to draw the finest threads of the metal. The highly conductive metal is also industrially suitable because of its relative affordability. However, the huge use of copper in the modern chips is posing a very important question about the availability of the material in the future.
Presently, a thumbnail-sized chip deploys the finest copper wiring that can stretch up to 96 km! This also means that electricity has to travel this entire distance in the fraction of a second. This distance between point A and B is causing high electrical resistance issues with the metal, often setting the chip on fire. With stanene, all solutions are coming. The future chips would be smaller, faster, and better in energy consumption compared to the chips of today.
By nature, stanene is a ‘topological insulator’. The core of the material is an insulator, while the surrounding surface allows the flow of electrons. So, scientists made the material with the thickness of a single atom, so that it effectively becomes a 100% conductor. The electrons would travel without any resistance in the freewheeling single atom circuit of stanin. There are no speed limits in the freeway!
Scientists are not stopping at what they developed already though. Constant progressive efforts are on to improve the material significantly. As a part of the development process, scientists also experimented on fluoridation of the material. By introducing the fluorine atoms in the circuit, scientists aim to maintain the highest energy efficiency even at top temperatures. The fluorine atoms can actually enable the steady flow of uninhibited energy even at 100 degree Celsius. This would ensure that the material would blend effectively in computer processors, which usually run at a 40 to 90 degree Celsius temperature range. The team is constantly improving the material to make it available for mainstream usage.