Nov. 21, 2013 — A single layer of tin atoms could be the world's first material to conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency at the temperatures that computer chips operate, according to a team of theoretical physicists led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University.
Researchers call the new material "stanene," combining the Latin name for tin (stannum) with the suffix used in graphene, another single-layer material whose novel electrical properties hold promise for a wide range of applications.
"Stanene could increase the speed and lower the power needs of future generations of computer chips, if our prediction is confirmed by experiments that are underway in several laboratories around the world," said the team leader, Shoucheng Zhang, a physics professor at Stanford and the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES), a joint institute with SLAC. The team's work was published recently in Physical Review Letters.
As is the case with any discovery that could lead to better electronics, this excites me greatly. Why? Not only could this increase the efficiency of machines along the same pace Moore's Law predicted, it could make it much, much, MUCH cheaper as well. Seeing as how Tin is a highly common resource, it will create greater opportunity for research and development of quantum computing.
The immediate implications are unclear, seeing as how this is a technology that is still theoretical and is currently being tested. However, if they are able to succeed and mass-produce this for commercial use, we can expect much more from our computers.
Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely to happen anytime soon. It's still worth getting excited about, considering we are still doing a lot to advance our computing power. It just may not be quite to this level just yet. Keep looking towards the future!