The Thinnest Technology in the World

Just two atoms thick, the world’s thinnest technology.

Modern cutting-edge technology uses tiny crystals with roughly a million atoms (about a hundred atoms in height, width, and thickness). With each device switching at a rate of roughly a million times per second, a million of these devices could be crammed into the space of a single coin.

Dr. Ben Shalom explains, “In the lab, we were able to stack the layers artificially in a parallel configuration without rotation, which theoretically places atoms of the same kind in perfect overlap despite the strong repulsive force between them (resulting from their identical charges). In reality, though, the crystal prefers to slide one layer slightly in relation to the other, resulting in only half of each layer’s atoms being in perfect overlap, and those that do overlap are of opposite charges, while all others are located above or below an empty space – the center of the hexagon. The layers in this fabricated stacking configuration are very distinct from one another. For instance, if only the boron atoms in the top layer overlap,

“The symmetry breaking we created in the laboratory, which doesn’t exist in the natural crystal, forces the electric charge to reorganize itself between the layers and generates a tiny internal electrical polarization perpendicular to the layer plane,” says Maayan Wizner Stern, the PhD student who led the study. The system slides laterally to switch the polarization orientation when we apply an external electric field in the opposite direction. Even when the external field is turned off, the switched polarization is stable. The system is comparable to thick three-dimensional ferroelectric systems, which are currently used extensively in technology.

The team believes that many layered crystals with the appropriate symmetry properties will exhibit the same behaviors, and they have given the promising idea of interlayer sliding the name “Slide-Tronics” as a novel and effective method of controlling sophisticated electronic devices.

What is it?

The electrical engineering technology proposes a method for storing electric information in the smallest unit of only two atoms, in one of the most stable and inert materials in nature, and may significantly speed up the information reading process compared to current technologies.

What is it used for?

It is a mechanism that makes processing possible in a compact, quick, and affordable device. The quantum ability of electrons to hop quickly and efficiently through barriers just a few atoms thick also allows memories based on such a thin structure. It reads information through an atomically thin film using quantum-mechanical electron tunneling, which may be much more efficient than current technologies. As a result, it significantly reduces the speed, density, and energy consumption of electronic devices. 

What will this discovery add to science and technology?

Additionally, it is hoped that miniaturization will enhance electronic devices and other novel information-control mechanisms in upcoming devices.

Who took part in the research?

Scientists from the School of Physics and Astronomy in Tel Aviv, Israel, carried out the research. Science Magazine has published the study. Cutting-edge technology may significantly increase the speed, density, and energy efficiency of electronic devices.

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