Engineers at the University of California, Riverside, have demonstrated prototype devices made of an exotic material that can conduct a current density 50 times greater than conventional copper interconnect technology.
Current density is the amount of electrical current per cross-sectional area at a given point. As transistors in integrated circuits become smaller and smaller, they need higher and higher current densities to perform at the desired level. Most conventional electrical conductors, such as copper, tend to break due to overheating or other factors at high current densities, presenting a barrier to creating increasingly small components.
The electronics industry needs alternatives to silicon and copper that can sustain extremely high current densities at sizes of just a few nanometers.
The advent of graphene resulted in a massive, worldwide effort directed at the investigation of other two-dimensional, or 2-D, layered materials that would meet the need for nanoscale electronic components that can sustain a high current density. While 2-D materials consist of a single layer of atoms, 1D materials consist of individual chains of atoms weakly bound to one another, but their potential for electronics has not been as widely studied.
One can think of 2-D materials as thin slices of bread while 1D materials are like spaghetti. Compared to 1D materials, 2-D materials seem huge.
A group of researchers led by Alexander A. Balandin, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering at UC Riverside, discovered that zirconium tritelluride, or ZrTe3, nanoribbons have an exceptionally high current density that far exceeds that of any conventional metals like copper.
thumbnail courtesy of phys.org