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Memory prototype made up of mineral, graphene

Posted: 25 Mar 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:flash memory? graphene? molybdenite? MoS2?

Two years ago, scientists from ?cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne's (EPFL) Laboratory of Nanometer Electronics and Structures (LANES) revealed that the mineral molybdenite (MoS2) has promising electronic properties. The team also showcased that it is possible to build an efficient molybdenite chip.

Today, the LANES research team has come up with a novel ideamolybdenite flash memory. They combined the advantages of molybdenite with graphene and developed a flash memory prototype. The prototype is a cell that can not only store data but also maintain it in the absence of electricity, the scientists claim. This is the kind of memory used in digital devices such as cameras, phones, laptop computers, printers, and USB keys.

"For our memory model, we combined the unique electronic properties of MoS2 with graphene's amazing conductivity," explained Andras Kis, author of the study and director of LANES.

Molybdenite and graphene have many things in common. Both are expected to surpass the physical limitations of our current silicon chips and electronic transistors. Their two-dimensional chemical structurethe fact that they're made up of a layer only a single atom thickgives them huge potential for miniaturization and mechanical flexibility.

molybdenite flash memory

The prototype crafted by LANES was designed using "field effect" geometry.
Source: EPFL

Although graphene is a better conductor, molybdenite has advantageous semi-conducting properties. MoS2 has an ideal "energy band" in its electronic structure that graphene does not. This allows it to switch very easily from an "on" to an "off" state, and thus to use less electricity. Used together, the two materials can thus combine their unique advantages.

The transistor prototype developed by LANES was designed using "field effect" geometry, a bit like a sandwich. In the middle, instead of silicon, a thin layer of MoS2 channels electrons. Underneath, the electrodes transmitting electricity to the MoS2 layer are made out of graphene. And on top, the scientists also included an element made up of several layers of graphene; this captures electric charge and thus stores memory.

"Combining these two materials enabled us to make great progress in miniaturization, and also using these transistors we can make flexible nanoelectronic devices," Kis noted. The prototype stores a bit of memory, just a like a traditional cell. But according to the scientist, because molybdenite is thinner than silicon and thus more sensitive to charge, it offers great potential for more efficient data storage.

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