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Graphene Gets Some Competition

New building blocks for 2-D circuits

3 min read
Graphene Gets Some Competition
Illustration by Emily Cooper

“Flatland” has never looked so good. A little less than a decade ago, physicists showed they could pull away loosely bound layers of graphite to reveal graphene, a 2-D carbon structure. The material was shown to have very promising electronic properties. But graphene isn’t the only game in town. A whole host of 2-D structures are attracting attention. Many can be formed just as graphene is, from layered 3-D materials; one such material, molybdenum disulfide, has been used in recent months to form flexible, transparent transistors and some of the basic building blocks of logic chips. Others are flattened forms of naturally 3-D structures. In April, for example, a team based at Ohio State University reported they had wrangled germanium, a mainstay of the semiconductor industry, into a 2-D structure that transports electrons faster than its 3-D counterpart does.

Rounded up here are some of the most promising materials on the 2-D scene. Some offer smaller and less power-hungry transistors that could be used for future logic and memory chips. Others could be ideal for computing with light and for other far-out applications. Some may work in concert with one another or with graphene, while others are direct competitors.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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