A new study suggests atomically thin semiconductors called transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) have optical properties that could be used to make computers run a million times faster.
It could also store information a million times more energy-efficiently, according to the research by Georgia State University.
The idea is that because computers operate on the time scale of a fraction of a nanosecond, constructing computers on the basis of TMDCs could make them run on the femtosecond timescale, which is about a million times faster - a femtosecond being one billionth of a second.
This would also increase computer memory speed by a million-fold, they claims. "There is nothing faster, except light," said Dr Mark Stockman, lead author of the study.
"The only way to build much faster computers is to use optics, not electronics. Electronics, which is used by current computers, can't go any faster, which is why engineers have been increasing the number of processors.
"We propose the TMDCs to make computers a million times more efficient. This is a fundamentally different approach to information technology."
A TMDC is made up of a hexagonal lattice structure that consists of a layer of transition metal atoms sandwiched between two layers of chalcogen atoms. This hexagonal structure aids in the computer processor speed and also enables more efficient information storage.
Chalcogen atoms are the chemical elements in group 16 of the periodic table, consisting of oxygen, sulfur, selenium, tellurium, and the radioactive element polonium.
This means TMDCs have a number of positive qualities, including being stable, non-toxic, thin, light and mechanically strong.
This is because in the hexagonal lattice structure of TMDCs, electrons rotate in circles in different states, with some electrons spinning to the left and others turning to the right depending on their position on the hexagon. This motion causes a new effect that is called topological resonance. Such an effect allows one to read, write or process a bit of information in only a few femtoseconds.
The researchers say they are now researching the best TMDC to use in the future of computer technology.
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