Researcher from of the Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES) in EPFL have uncovered a way to build highly miniaturized and efficient transistors by using “sheets” of molybdenite instead of silicon. Molybdenite is already in used as a lubricant or steel alloy additive. According to the researchers, this material is inexpensive and naturally occurring in large quantities.
Furthermore, molybdenite has essential physical properties that makes it less bulky than silicon; hence, making it possible to have semiconductor transistors three or four nanometers in size. According to the report from EPFL, the smallest length of silicon-based industrial transistors is likely to be limited to around 10nm.
Another important property of molybdenite is its “band gap” that separates the conduction and valence band in a semiconductor material. The “band gap” enables accurate control of the flow of electrons, and control of the on/off functionality. This property makes molybdenite very suitable as a replacement for silicon.
Other scientists have been trying to overcome the physical limit of silicon with innovative propositions like using special glue to build silicon stacks. Researchers from EPFL are trying to tackle this problem from a different angle by looking for a feasible replacement of silicon
The other contender in this race is graphene, a material which is very similar to molybdenite; however, according to the researchers at EPFL, it lacks the presence of a "band gap" in its physical properties. The race to overcome the physical limitations of silicon is ongoing. Whether molybdenite will emerge victorious is difficult to see as the researchers at EPFL said that they still have a lot of exploration work to be done.