Potentially in just months from now we will be seeing the first processors manufactured on a 7 nm process ship and with them a likely significant step for performance and efficiency. As impressive as this transition might be though, we are approaching the limits of what is possible with silicon-based electronics. Among the materials being considered and developed on to replace ubiquitous silicon are 2D materials, such as graphene, and now a solution has been found for what would likely have been a significant issue.
Among the reasons there is a desire to move to 2D materials is that they can allow for much smaller chips to be made, compared to traditional 3D materials, and they can also bring other, special properties. The issue is that components made with them are prone to overheating. This may seem odd, especially for graphene which is a good thermal conductor, but transferring heat from the material to the silicon base it is built on is not so easy. However, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered that by adding an ultra-thin layer of another material on top can significantly improve this heat transfer. The researchers tested this with silicon oxide as the base, carbide for 2D material, and an ultra-thin layer of aluminum oxide encapsulating it and found the conductance was twice what it was without the aluminum oxide.
This test setup is only an experimental model, but it does still demonstrate a way to increase heat transfer, which is critical for potentially making 2D nanoelectronics in the future. Next the researchers want to work with different materials for the encapsulating layer, to see if this can improve the heat transfer even more.
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