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Silicene discovered: Single-layer silicon that could beat graphene to market

•, By Sebastian Anthony
 Since its discovery a few years ago, you will have heard a lot about graphene, especially with regard to its truly wondrous electrical properties. Graphene is the most conductive material in the known universe, and IBM has shown that graphene transistors could be become the basis of transistors (and computers) that operate in the hundreds-of-gigahertz or terahertz (THz) range. There’s only one problem: Graphene isn’t really a semiconductor in the silicon/computer chip sense of the word. Unlike silicon (or germanium), graphene doesn’t have a bandgap, which makes it very hard to actually build a switching device — such as a transistor — out of it. Researchers have had some luck in introducing a bandgap, but graphene is still a long way away from being used in current silicon processes.
Silicene (pictured right) is more exciting than graphene because, technically, it should be compatible with silicon-based electronics and the huge, existing semiconductor fabrication processes.

In this case, each of the research groups created a silicene sheet by condensing vaporized silicon on a silver substrate. It’s theorized that silicene should have very desirable electrical characteristics, similar to graphene, but for now we simply have evidence that silicene exists (it has been observed with a scanning tunneling electron microscope).

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