Researchers From Tel Aviv University Have Developed The World’s Thinnest Technology ― Only Two Atoms Thick

Researchers From Tel Aviv University Have Developed The World’s Thinnest Technology ― Only Two Atoms Thick

Tel Aviv University researchers have created the world's smallest technology, with a thickness of only two atoms. According to the researchers, the new technology proposes a method for storing electric information in the thinnest unit known to science, in one of nature's most stable and inert materials.

The device is made up of two layers, one of boron and the other of nitrogen, arranged in a repeating hexagonal structure. Electrons from the boron and nitrogen atoms can zip across the gap between the two layers, changing the device's state and allowing it to encode digital information due to a strange quantum mechanical effect known as quantum tunneling.

Quantum tunneling, also known as tunneling, is a quantum mechanical phenomenon in which a wave function can pass through a potential barrier. The transmission through the barrier can be finite and is proportional to the barrier height and width.

Quantum tunneling allows particles, in this case, electrons, to pass through seemingly insurmountable barriers. In quantum physics, particles exist as both waves and particles simultaneously; the waves are the projected probabilities of the particle existing in a given space.

"The ability to force a crystalline and electronic arrangement in such a thin system, with unique polarization and inversion properties resulting from the weak Van der Waals forces between the layers, is not limited to the boron and nitrogen crystal," said Dr. Moshe Ben Shalom, a physicist at Tel Aviv University and a co-author of the study that developed the new technology, said in a statement. "We expect the same behaviors in many layered crystals with the right symmetry properties. The concept of interlayer sliding as an original and efficient way to control advanced electronic devices is very promising, and we have named it Slide-Tronics."

Current state-of-the-art devices are made up of tiny crystals containing approximately one million atoms(one hundred atoms in height, width, and thickness). To encode and process data, these devices in a computer switch between two binary states (one and zero, yes and no, up and down) at a speed of about a million times per second.

According to researchers, they can now make that process even more efficient. By reducing the size of the technology to only two atoms, electrons can move faster through the layer. The difference is analogous to a large button that requires a lot of force to push versus a smaller, thinner one that requires less force.

"In its natural three-dimensional state, this material is made up of a large number of layers placed on top of each other, with each layer rotated 180 degrees relative to its neighbors," said Dr. Moshe Ben Shalom.

Dr. Moshe also added, "In the lab, we were able to artificially stack the layers in a parallel configuration with no rotation, which hypothetically places atoms of the same kind in perfect overlap despite the strong repulsive force between them (resulting from their identical charges).

According to the researchers, the same approach is expected to work with multiple crystals, potentially providing even more desirable properties.

“We are excited about discovering what can happen in other states we force upon nature and predict that other structures that couple additional degrees of freedom are possible," said lead author Maayan Vizner Stern, a doctoral candidate at Tel Aviv University, in the statement, "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. In addition to computer devices, we expect that this technology will contribute to detectors, energy storage and conversion, interaction with light, etc. Our challenge, as we see it, is to discover more crystals with new and slippery degrees of freedom."

The study was published in the journal Science. 

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