back to article Boffins eschew silicon to build tiniest-ever transistor, just 1nm long

Boffins from the United States Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and beyond say they've cracked a new way to make very, very, small transistors. As explained in their Science paper MoS2 transistors with 1-nanometer gate lengths, the authors explain silicon is a lovely substance with …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Shirley

    It would be MoS(2) valley where everything is green and lovely?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shirley

      Isn't that the stuff they use in grease? How slippery are these transistors? Are they really building a nanometre-scale Difference Engine?

      1. Fred M

        Re: Shirley

        Grease was the first thing I though of too. I'm sure I've got a tub of that in the garage. I'll go stick a multimeter in it and see if it semiconducts.

        1. ElectricFox
          Windows

          Re: Shirley

          some better revised names for Silicone Valley:

          App Valley

          Internet of Things Valley

          Social Media Valley

          ...

          1. Anonymous Blowhard

            Re: Shirley

            Don't Google "Silicone Valley" at work...

          2. don_of_the_trump

            Re: Shirley

            snorting cocaine off a hookers jubs valley

        2. Peter Christy

          Re: Shirley

          Not only grease, but an excellent additive to engine and gearbox oil too! Back in the day when I used to race karts (2-stroke engines), our team used to use moly based oil, when our rivals all used castor based. We were the only team that regularly got through a whole season without having an engine seize at some point....

          Still use it in my 45 year old classic car, which is running as well as it did when new.

          I wonder if the chips made with it will last as well.......

          1. Graham Hawkins

            Re: Shirley

            Just don't put it in an engine/gearbox with a wet clutch...

      2. Andrew Newstead

        Re: Shirley

        Does wonders on motorbike chains.

      3. Joe Gurman

        Re: Shirley

        Grease, as in lubricant for machining, chain lube, &c. Search on "Climax mine."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shirley

          It's an additive to grease, not a grease itself, of course. Quite interesting how it works. The MoS2 (residue) continues to lubricate if the bearing overheats or runs dry, much as graphite does, but better: It binds chemically to the steel's surfaces, making the steel itself slippery. Particularly valuable in high speed/pressure joints as a result.

    2. AceRimmer1980

      Re: Shirley

      The mos is always greener on the other side of the gate.

  2. Ian Bush

    Moly

    Chemists tend to call Molybdenum "Moly". So though inaccurate "Moly's valley" would be a possibility.

    1. David Roberts
      Coat

      Re: Moly

      During the transition phase will it be known as Sili Moly's Valley?

      I'll just slip me coat on.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Moly

      If I remember my semiconductor theory correctly does that mean we can dust off Holey Moly?

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    in which electrons as “heavier” and therefore able to be controlled ion shorter gates

    I'm not a scientist, but I am somehow pretty sure that that phrase makes no sense.

    1. Ian Bush
      Boffin

      Re: in which electrons as “heavier” and therefore able to be controlled ion shorter gates

      They're not talking about the actual mass, they're talking about the "effective mass". Wikipedia has an article on it

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_mass_(solid-state_physics)

      but I admit I haven't read it to see how good it is

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: in which electrons as “heavier” and therefore able to be controlled ion shorter gates

        Without bothering to look into anything I read "heavy" as quaint dialect for "tightly held" - an allusion to the crystal's field's affinity for hanging on to the wee bastards - and therefore how difficult it is for them to pop out.

        Just a guess though ;)

  4. TeeCee Gold badge
    WTF?

    "eschew silicon"

    Hmm. What's that stuff in the illustration that the whole kaboodle is deposited / etched on?

    Begins with "S".....

    1. GrumpyOF

      Re: "eschew silicon"

      "S" for substrate, not an active component.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: "eschew silicon"

        A lot of peripheral devices will probably continue to be implemented in the traditional silicon.

    2. The First Dave
      Boffin

      Re: "eschew silicon"

      No, that would be shown as Si ...

    3. Michael Thibault
      Holmes

      Re: "eschew silicon"

      >What's that stuff in the illustration that the whole kaboodle is deposited / etched on?

      And can an object that is 1 nanometer in length--and much less in width--even cast a shadow? Let's be real.

      1. Chris 239

        Re: "eschew silicon"

        I too noted the shadows and thought "thats wrong" I assume the grahpic was jazzed up by a "creative" type.

  5. Michael Hoffmann
    Boffin

    Abundance a problem

    Silicon is number 2. Molybdenum is 54... sayeth Wiki. 2th most abundant in oceans.

    Largest producers: The world's production of molybdenum was 250,000 tonnes in 2011, the largest producers being China (94,000 t), United States (64,000 t), Chile (38,000 t), Peru (18,000 t) and Mexico (12,000 t). The total reserves are estimated at 10 million tonnes, and are mostly concentrated in China (4.3 Mt), US (2.7 Mt) and Chile (1.2 Mt). By continent, 93% of world molybdenum production is about evenly shared between North America, South America (mainly in Chile), and China. Europe and the rest of Asia (mostly Armenia, Russia, Iran and Mongolia) produce the remainder.

    1. beerfuelled

      Re: Abundance a problem

      It's sitting on a Silicon substrate, so I assume the chip is still mostly Silicon.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Abundance a problem

        How much silicon is used in semiconductor production? How much molybdenum is used in other applications? If the silicon substrate makes up 95% of the mass of a future semiconductor, what impact will the 5% of the semiconductor that is molybdenum have on the market?

        And finally, if the use and value of molybdenum goes up, will new reserves be found or become economically viable, as we see in many other minerals?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Abundance a problem

      In 0.65nm sheets I don't think abundance is a problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Abundance a problem

        Quite. I fancy you could fashion quite a large 0.65nm thick sheet from just a single day's ~1,000,000kg production.

        The stuff's used massively in industry e.g for lubricating and hardening steel so I can't imagine a tiny trickle being diverted off into semiconductors will/would ever be noticed by the market.

  6. teknopaul Silver badge

    molly valley

    I think molly valley is already apt.

  7. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Swings and Roundabouts

    Shirley if the electrons are heavier then they travel slower (ISTR that was how it worked when I was doing chips) so even if the gate length is shorter the device is not going to scale up faster linearly.

    At these scale they should be thinking more on cathode gride anode sorts of thingys using the tunneling.

    Bring back Baby!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Swings and Roundabouts - Bring back Baby!

      Upvoted for what I assume is an SSEM reference.

      There was quite a lot of work being done on tunnelling triodes at one point (for EMP hardening) but it all went very quiet - so I assume it was successful but very classified, or unsuccessful as the sheer gate count of modern semiconductors rendered it impractical.

  8. John Savard

    Speed versus Size

    In order to make the transistor so small, they had to use a material with lower electron mobility. When there were news items about the experimental world's fastest transistor, materials like Indium Antimonide were used, which had a very high electron mobility.

    If we made computers with 1nm transistors instead of 20nm transistors, but they ran at 500 MHz instead of 2 GHz, I don't think very many people would be interested. So that, not the fact that it's just a prototype, and they're not ready to make a Molybdenum Disulphide microprocessor just yet, would seem to be the killer.

  9. Penrod Pooch

    The answer

    Of course Molybedenum is the answer - just look at its atomic number.

  10. Securitymoose

    Wot, no editor?

    This is not a one-off. The standard of the articles is falling I'm, afraid...

    "controlled ion shorter gates" you mean in or on, but not ion?

  11. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Enter Molybdenum disulphide - MoS2 – in which electrons are “heavier”

    <Blinks silently>

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