The researchers believe that molybdenite can surpass the physical limits of silicon in terms of miniaturization, electricity consumption, and mechanical flexibility.
"The main advantage of MoS2 is that it allows us to reduce the size of transistors, and thus to further miniaturize them," said Andras Kis, director at the Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES) at EPFL. "It has not been possible up to this point to make layers of silicon less than two nanometers thick, because of the risk of initiating a chemical reaction that would oxidize the surface and compromise its electronic properties. Molybdenite, on the other hand, can be worked in layers only three atoms thick, making it possible to build chips that are at least three times smaller. At this scale, the material is still very stable and conduction is easy to control."
What makes molybdenite even more attractive is the fact that it is a "relatively abundant, naturally occurring mineral." The researchers said that it can directly compete with silicon as its structure and semiconducting properties make it "an ideal material for transistors." According to Kis, however, molybdenite transistors are more efficient, since they "can be turned on and off much more quickly, and can be put into a more complete standby mode." The researcher said that the material is about as good as silicon for the amplification of electric signals.
So far, the scientists have only built very basic chips with two to six transistors. They now want to build larger chips.