Chemists at The Ohio State University have developed the technology for making a one-atom-thick sheet of germanium, and found that it conducts electrons more than ten times faster than silicon and five times faster than conventional germanium. This will be easier to commercialize than graphene electronics.
The material’s structure is closely related to that of graphene—a much-touted two-dimensional material comprised of single layers of carbon atoms. As such, graphene shows unique properties compared to its more common multilayered counterpart, graphite. Graphene has yet to be used commercially, but experts have suggested that it could one day form faster computer chips, and maybe even function as a superconductor, so many labs are working to develop it.
Researchers have tried to create germanane before. This is the first time anyone has succeeded at growing sufficient quantities of it to measure the material’s properties in detail, and demonstrate that it is stable when exposed to air and water.
According to the researchers’ calculations, electrons can move through germanane ten times faster through silicon, and five times faster than through conventional germanium. The speed measurement is called electron mobility.
With its high mobility, germanane could thus carry the increased load in future high-powered computer chips.
“Mobility is important, because faster computer chips can only be made with faster mobility materials,” Golberger said. “When you shrink transistors down to small scales, you need to use higher mobility materials or the transistors will just not work,” Goldberger explained.
Next, the team is going to explore how to tune the properties of germanane by changing the configuration of the atoms in the single layer.
Graphene’s success has shown not only that it is possible to create stable, single-atom-thick sheets from a crystalline solid but that these materials have fundamentally different properties than the parent material. We have synthesized for the first time, millimeter-scale crystals of a hydrogen-terminated germanium multilayered graphane analogue (germanane, GeH) from the topochemical deintercalation of CaGe2. This layered van der Waals solid is analogous to multilayered graphane (CH). The surface layer of GeH only slowly oxidizes in air over the span of 5 months, while the underlying layers are resilient to oxidation based on X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy measurements. The GeH is thermally stable up to 75 °C; however, above this temperature amorphization and dehydrogenation begin to occur. These sheets can be mechanically exfoliated as single and few layers onto SiO2/Si surfaces. This material represents a new class of covalently terminated graphane analogues and has great potential for a wide range of optoelectronic and sensing applications, especially since theory predicts a direct band gap of 1.53 eV and an electron mobility ca. five times higher than that of bulk Ge.
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