Meet Silicene, the Semiconductor of The FutureBy danseitz
Scientists and engineers have been all crazy about graphene ever since it became practical to make the stuff. Graphene, for those not up on the latest hot science trends, is a one-atom-thick lattice of carbon atoms that looks like a honeycomb. You know it from pencils: sheets of graphene rub off onto paper in your average pencil lead. Graphene is incredibly light, absurdly strong, has electrical properties that make it ideal for semiconductors…in short, this is the stuff the future is made of.
Well, it was. Until big brother silicon got rearranged by some scientists into silicene, which didn’t really exist before last year.
Silicene has the same arrangement of atoms as graphene, but there’s one problem: silicon doesn’t “do” honeycombs. This didn’t stop the idea of silicene being proposed by Wright State University scientists, or Guy Le Lay of the University of Provence from developing silicene ribbons last year, but it’s still a bit of a problem in that actually making the stuff is tricky.
Graphene was discovered with Scotch tape and pencil lead; silicene was grown by blasting a pure alloy crystal with radiation. One is much simpler than the other. Still, this has real promise for the flexible, fast gadgets of tomorrow.