Silicon may be the de facto standard of computing today, but it could be due to change if new research from MIT, University of Houston, and other institutions is to be believed.
Cubic boron arsenic, a chemical compound cooked from a mixture of boron and arsenic, could be a better semiconductor, overcoming some of silicon’s weaknesses when it comes to heat sensitivity.
In fact, according to research published in Sciences (Opens in a new tab)cubic boron arsenide has “the third best thermal conductivity of any material – next to diamond and theoretically enriched cubic boron nitride”.
Is this the future?
The research said more work was needed to determine whether cubic boron arsenic could be manufactured “in a practical and economical form, not to mention a ubiquitous replacement for silicon.”
But even in the near future, the material could find “some uses where its unique properties make a big difference,” according to the researchers.
However, the research demonstrated the enormous potential that the compound has.
Cubic boron arsenide appears to be more suitable for “holes” – isotopes of positively charged electrons.
The lower sensitivity of cubic boron can make a big difference.
“Heat is now the main bottleneck for many electronic devices,” said Jungwoo Shin, who co-authored the paper at MIT. “Silicon carbide is replacing silicon for power electronics in major electric vehicle industries including Tesla, because it has a thermal conductivity three times higher than silicon despite its lower electrical mobility.”
“Imagine what boron arsenide could achieve, with a thermal conductivity 10 times higher and a much higher mobility than silicon. It could be a change agent.”
It’s not just cubic boron arsenide that threatens to overtake silicon one day.
Researchers from the University of Illinois built 4-bit and 8-bit processors entirely out of plastic, which appears to have an 81% success rate, at least for 4-bit models.
It’s important to note that silicon didn’t really have a monopoly in the semiconductor world anyway.
Gallium arsenide, built from gallium and arsenic, is widely used in lasers as an alternative to silicon.
via MIT News (Opens in a new tab)