Making thin films out of semiconducting materials is analogous to how ice grows on a windowpane: When the conditions are just right, the semiconductor grows in flat crystals that slowly fuse together, eventually forming a continuous film. This process of film deposition is common for traditional semiconductors like silicon or gallium arsenide -- the basis of modern electronics -- but scientists are now pushing the limits for how thin they can go. They have demonstrated a way to create a new kind of semiconductor thin film that retains its electrical properties even when it is just atoms thick.
Scientists have created an electronic device so accurate that it can detect the charge of a single electron in less than one microsecond. It has been dubbed the 'gate sensor' and could be applied in quantum computers of the future to read information stored in the charge or spin of a single electron.
As computers continue to shrink -- moving from desks and laps to hands and wrists -- memory has to become smaller, stable and more energy conscious. A group of researchers is trying to do just that with help from a new class of materials, whose magnetism can essentially be controlled by the flick of a switch.
New understanding of the nature of electromagnetism could lead to antennas small enough to fit on computer chips -- the 'last frontier' of semiconductor design -- and could help identify the points where theories of classical electromagnetism and quantum mechanics overlap.