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New Energy-Saving Semiconductor Technology for Sustainable Energy Future

A new system to transport data with the help of atomically thin semiconductors in an extremely energy-efficient way has been developed by researchers from the Australian National University (ANU).

New Energy-Saving Semiconductor Technology for Sustainable Energy Future.

Image Credit: Philipp Katzenberger/Unsplash.

Eventually, the discovery could help power next-generation computers and smartphones that use up less electricity compared to existing devices.

This new and greatly enhanced level of energy efficiency has been achieved by blending excitons — electrons bound with electron holes — with light in one-atom thin semiconductors, which are nearly 100,000 times thinner compared to a sheet of paper.

A great potential has been shown by the new and energy-saving semiconductor technology. It shows signs of needing less electricity to run by not giving off any heat. This implies no wasted energy.

The researchers from ANU are the first to be successful in illustrating this efficient transportation of information carriers — particles that have the ability to transport data in computers — in such atomically thin semiconductors at room temperature. This is considered to be the first step in creating the smartphones and computers of the future.

The researchers believe that the technology could open the door for sustainable growth in computing by decreasing wasted energy consumption, which is a challenge experienced by researchers across the world.

Computers already use around 10 percent of all globally available electricity, a number which comes with a massive financial and environmental cost, and is predicted to double every 10 years due to the increasing demand for computing.

Matthias Wurdack, PhD Scholar, Research School of Physics, Australian National University

Estimates show that our computing devices, the Internet, data centers and other digital technologies account for at least two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is similar to the aviation industry pre-COVID,” added Wurdack.

According to Mr. Wurdack, the lead author of the research, this new development overcomes the heating issue that drives electricity consumption in thousands of huge, factory-sized data centers located globally.

A huge amount of the energy used by computers is wasted because the electricity used to power it heats up the device as it performs its tasks,” stated Wurdack.

The scientists at ANU hope to take a step ahead toward new energy-efficient information technologies and a possible decrease in global energy consumption. This in turn would decrease the number of detrimental emissions discharged into the air.

Since producing, storing, and supplying energy always comes with a cost, including air pollution and climate change as a result of burning fossil fuels, it is extremely important we reduce our electricity usage for a more sustainable future.

Matthias Wurdack, PhD Scholar, Research School of Physics, Australian National University

Professor Elena Ostrovskaya stated this study is part of the global measure to design low-energy semiconductor technologies for computing and information processing.

There are many other options for future research, including the development of energy-efficient sensors and lasers based on this semiconductor technology.

Elena Ostrovskaya, Study Corresponding Author and Professor, Australian National University

Ostrovskaya is also the Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET).

The next level of the study is to integrate the technology into a transistor, which is considered to be the building block of computers.

Journal Reference:

Wurdack, M., et al. (2021) Motional narrowing, ballistic transport, and trapping of room-temperature exciton polaritons in an atomically thin semiconductor. Nature Communications.


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