Silicon-based semiconductor manufacturing technology is about to reach its limits. A further reduction in the manufacturing process is limited by the heat generated by the electrons. After long attempts to find an inexpensive alternative devoid of this drawback, Dutch researchers have created a silicon alloy that uses light photons instead of electrons.
The main problem of silicon is the heat that occurs due to the resistance that electrons experience when passing through copper lines. Unlike electrons, photons do not have mass, which means they do not experience resistance and do not emit heat. This will increase the speed of data exchange within the chip by up to 1000 times, as well as significantly reduce power consumption.
Scientists have already made attempts to find a replacement for silicon. The most promising semiconductors are gallium arsenide and indium phosphide. They emit light well, but cost more than silicon, and are difficult to integrate into existing silicon microchips. The researchers explain that in order to create a silicon-compatible laser, it was necessary to obtain a form of silicon that could emit light. The breakthrough of 50 years of experiments was the combination of this material with germanium in a hexagonal structure that was able to emit light. In the course of growing nanowires, the first hexagonal silicon was obtained back in 2015. However, all this time it was not possible to make the new material emit light.
Experiments have confirmed that the new silicon alloy emits light efficiently. Creating a laser is a matter of time. According to experts, it will be ready this year. Currently, research is underway to integrate hexagonal silicon into existing microelectronics.