MIT Develops Groundbreaking Semiconductor Material


One of the most plentiful elements on Earth, silicon has been used as the basis for most contemporary technology, including solar cells and computer chips. The characteristics of silicon as a semiconductor, however, are not perfect.

One reason is that while silicon allows electrons to flow easily through its structure, it is far less tolerant of "holes," which are positively charged electrons' opposites, and harnessing both is crucial for particular types of devices. Silicon also does a poor job of transporting heat, which contributes to the frequent overheating problems and pricey cooling systems in computers.

Now, research conducted by a group of scientists at MIT, the University of Houston, and other institutions has been published in Science and it shows that a substance known as cubic boron arsenide overcomes both of the negatives of silicon. It has great thermal conductivity and gives both electrons and holes high mobility. According to the experts, it is the best semiconductor material that has ever been discovered and might be the best one.

Until now, cubic boron arsenide has only been produced and examined in small, uneven lab batches. To examine specific small portions of the material, the researchers had to apply unique techniques that were initially created by former MIT postdoc Bai Song. If cubic boron arsenide can be produced in an efficient, practical form, much less take the place of silicon, more research will be required. However, the researchers think that soon, the material might find some applications where its special features would make a big impact.


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