New Method To Investigate Next-Gen Nano-electronics
Novel yet mysterious electronic materials with tremendous potential can now be examined at the atomic level, potentially speeding up the creation of tomorrow’s electronic wonders
Today’s electronics are marvels of engineering and computer science. Yet, the potential of materials other than modern semconductors could greatly exceed the usual “That’s Way Cool” reaction and bring it to a new level I’ll call the “Holy Crap” range.
Specifically I’m speaking about Transition Metal Oxides (TMOs). This class of materials has been known for years but has become increasingly recognized as a potential successor to conventional semiconductors because of an amazing suite of properties including the following:
- They can be Magnetic and Ferrorelectric at the same time. You know what magnetic means. Ferrorelectricty is the ability of positive and negative charges to separate in a material and be manipulated externally by a magnetic field.
- They exhibit Colossal Magnetoresistance. This is the ability to use an external magnetic field to change electrical resistance. The hard drive on your computer uses magnetoresistance to read data and is the reason why they can be so small.
- They can achieve High Temperature Superconductivity. This is the ability of electrons to flow with no resistence.
If you’re curious, many of the wonderful properties of transition metal oxides are due to the fact that they can share electrons not only using the outermost shell of electrons but inner ones as well.
But it’s not just the material itself that permits these wonders, much of the magic (not real magic, silly..it’s science) happens when you lay down nanometer thin layers of different types of TMOs. It’s within the boundaries of these layers that cool shit happens. For example, insulators inhibit the flow of electrons but two such layers of transition metal oxides can counter-intuitively manifest superconductivity. Non-magnetic layers can likewise create strong magnetic fields. Weird huh?
To fully take advantage of these materials we need to know what the hell is going on at the interface between all these layers. To do this, scientists have been using the Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchrotron. A synchrotron is a very massive and complicated device for creating x-rays. It does this by accelerating electrons to extremely high velocities and then making them change direction every now and then. This change in direction causes the emissions of powerful x-rays that can be used for various experimental setups. To examine the boundary layers between the Transition Metal Oxides requires an especially bright light source of very high quality. This is something the Canadian synchrotron but few others can provide.
With this device, x-rays are non-destructively sent into the material and reflected off of the various boundary layers. This light then re-combines to reveal minute details about the structures encountered that are 3-dimensional.
With the resulting data, researchers should be able to learn how these transition metal oxides do what they do best. Armed with this information, the next generation devices can be constructed to specifically take advantage of these properties.
Can’t wait for my smartphone/tricorder/warp-field-generator