In a recent study published in Applied Physics Letters, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) have built a ferroelectric semiconductor with a thickness of only five nanometers, equivalent to 50 atoms, in an attempt to eventually integrate this technology with conventional components used in smartphones and computers, along with expanding both artificial intelligence (AI) and sensing proficiencies and could also result in batteryless devices which is critical for the Internet of Things (IoT), such as smart homes and industrial safety systems.
"This will allow the realization of ultra-efficient, ultra-low-power, fully integrated devices with mainstream semiconductors," said Dr. Zetian Mi, who is a U-M professor of electrical and computer engineering, and a co-author on the study. "This will be very important for future AI and IoT-related devices."
For the study, the researchers were successful in using a method called molecular beam epitaxy, thus improving on previous studies from the same research team involving ferroelectric behavior in semiconductors. This new approach, often used to create semiconductor crystals to power the lasers in DVD and CD layers, allowed the team to create a crystal only five nanometers thick, which is the smallest ever accomplished.
"By reducing the thickness, we showed that there is a high possibility that we can reduce the operation voltage," said Dr. Ding Wang, who is a research scientist in electrical and computer engineering, and first author of the study. "This means we can reduce the size of the devices and reduce the power consumption during operation."
Along with achieving a smaller size, the researchers are also able to examine the material’s properties while pushing the boundaries of its production capabilities at smaller scales. This could also expand the potential for uses in quantum technologies due to its atypical acoustic and optical characteristics.
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