Scientists create thin technology only two atoms thick

Researchers from Tel Aviv University have engineered the smallest technology in the world that has a thickness of only two atoms. The tech opens the door for a new method of storing electric information using the thinnest unit known to science. The data would be stored in one of the most stable and inert materials known in nature.The technology uses quantum-mechanical electron tunneling, which, when operating through the atomically thin film, could boost the information reading process to performance levels beyond current technologies. State-of-the-art devices in use today have tiny crystals containing about a million atoms which are about 100 atoms in height, width, and thickness. A million such devices could be packed about 1 million times in the area of a coin, with each device able to switch at a speed around 1 million times per second.

Researchers on the project were able to reduce the thickness of the crystalline devices to two atoms, which allows the information to move at higher speeds. The material used in the study was two-dimensional, with one-atom-thick layers of boron and nitrogen arranged in a repetitive hexagon structure. The team was able to break the symmetry of the crystal by artificially assembling two layers. Researcher Dr. Ben Shalom says the team could artificially stack the layers in parallel configuration with no rotation.

Hypothetically, that places atoms of the same kind in a perfect overlap despite strong repulsive forces between them. Shalom says the Crystal prefers to slide one layer slightly in relation to the other so that only half of the atoms in the layer overlap. Using the artificial stacking configuration, the layers are distinct from one another, with Shalom saying if in the top layer only boron atoms overlap, in the bottom layer, it's the other way around.

Researchers expected the same behaviors from many-layered crystals with the correct symmetry properties and have labeled the concept of interlayer sliding "Slide-Tronics." The team hopes that miniaturizing and flipping through sliding will improve electronic devices in use today and allow other new methods of controlling information in future devices.