Exotic Materials Could Foster Next Gen Computing Devices

UA Scientists have tracked electrons moving through exotic materials that may make up the next generation of computing hardware, revealing intriguing properties not found in conventional, silicon-based semiconductors.

The end of the silicon age has begun. As computer chips approach the physical limits of miniaturization and power-hungry processors drive up energy costs, scientists are looking to a new crop of exotic materials that could foster a new generation of computing devices that promise to push performance to new heights while skimping on energy consumption.

Extreme conditions are used to protect and preserve the TMDs during the experiments. As shown here, all samples are stored and manipulated in a vacuum that is close to the conditions in space. (Photo: Kyle Mittan/UANews)

Unlike current silicon-based electronics, which shed most of the energy they consume as waste heat, the future is all about low-power computing. Known as spintronics, this technology relies on a quantum physical property of electrons -- up or down spin -- to process and store information, rather than moving them around with electricity as conventional computing does.

On the quest to making spintronic devices a reality, scientists at the University of Arizona are studying an exotic crop of materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides, or TMDs. TMDs have exciting properties lending themselves to new ways of processing and storing information and could provide the basis of future transistors and photovoltaics -- and potentially even offer an avenue toward quantum computing.