Engineers at the University of California, Riverside have created a prototype device made of a material that can conduct a current density 50 times greater than conventional copper interconnect technology.
The group of researchers, led by the University's professor of electrical and computer engineering, Alexander A. Balandin, uncovered that zirconium tritelluride, or ZrTe3, nanoribbons have an exceptionally high current density that far exceeds conventional metals, like copper.
The discovery was found as a result of the university's new strategy team pushing research from two-dimensional to one-dimensional materials, something which they said is an important advance for the future generation of electronics.
"Conventional metals are polycrystalline. They have grain boundaries and surface roughness, which scatter electrons," Balandin said.
"Quasi-one-dimensional materials such as ZrTe3 consist of single-crystal atomic chains in one direction. They do not have grain boundaries and often have atomically smooth surfaces after exfoliation. We attributed the exceptionally high current density in ZrTe3 to the single-crystal nature of quasi-1D materials."
The study came along due to the fact that electronic devices depend on special wiring to carry information between different parts of a circuit or system, and as developers miniaturise devices, their internal parts also must become smaller.
As a result, the interconnects that carry information between parts must become smallest of all. Depending on how they are configured, the ZrTe3 nanoribbons could be made into either nanometer-scale local interconnects or device channels for components of the tiniest devices.
The research group's experiments were conducted with nanoribbons that had been sliced from a pre-made sheet of material and with industrial applications that needed to grow nanoribbon directly on the wafer.
This manufacturing process is already under development, and Balandin believes 1D nanomaterials hold possibilities for applications in future electronics.
"The most exciting thing about the quasi-1D materials is that they can be truly synthesised into the channels or interconnects with the ultimately small cross-section of one atomic thread - approximately one nanometer by one nanometer," he added.
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