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These New Quantum Dot Crystals Could Replace Silicon in Super-Fast, Next-Gen Computers

Engineers in the US have created solid, crystalline quantum dot structures made of exceedingly small particles. Because these structures are so near to perfection, they might be a genuine competitor to replace silicon in future super-fast computers.

Quantum dot solids have the potential to fundamentally alter how we communicate and process information in the next decades, much as single-crystal silicon wafers did more than 60 years ago (without one, your phone, laptop, PC, and iPad would not exist).

Although quantum dot crystals offer enormous promise for use in computing, researchers have struggled for years to organize each individual dot into a precisely organized solid, which is necessary if you want to put it in a processor and send an electric charge through it.


The issue? Since quantum dots only contain 5,000 atoms apiece, previous attempts to construct something out of them have failed since scientists were unable to find out a way to 'glue' them together without utilizing a different substance that interferes with their function.

According to Cornell University's main researcher Tobias Hanrath, "before, they were basically tossed together, and you hoped for the best." "It was like trying to get power flowing from one end of a bathtub full of batteries," one person said.


Hanrath and his colleagues have discovered a way to do away with the glue and adhere the quantum dots to each other, Lego-style, rather than exploring various chemicals and materials that may serve as the "glue," but impair the quantum dot's electrical capabilities.

Hanrath claims that if multiple quantum dots of exactly the same size are thrown together, they will naturally align into a larger crystal.


To do this, the scientists first created lead and selenium nanocrystals and then assembled them into crystalline pieces. These pieces were then combined to create two-dimensional, square-shaped "superstructures" that function as microscopic building blocks that connect to one another devoid of the aid of additional atoms.


The team claims in a paper published in Nature Materials that the electrical characteristics of these superstructures may be superior to those of all other semiconductor nanocrystals currently in use, and they may be used in novel types of devices for extremely effective energy absorption and light emission.

However, the imperfection of the structures is a significant drawback of employing quantum dots as your building blocks. Each quantum dot can vary in size by around 5%, but every silicon atom is exactly the same size. Even when we're talking about a few thousand atoms tiny, that 5% size fluctuation is enough to prohibit perfection.


Hanrath claims that this is both a good and a terrible thing—good because they were able to push the boundaries of what is possible with quantum dot solids, but bad because they did.

According to a news release, "that's the equivalent of saying, "Now we've built a tremendously enormous single-crystal wafer of silicon, and you can do nice things with it." That's the positive aspect, but the possibly negative aspect is that we now have a greater grasp of how difficult it would be to improve upon current outcomes.

One of the team members, Kevin Whitham, says, "I see this study as somewhat of a challenge for future researchers to take this to another level." "This is as far as we can push it at the moment, but if someone were to come up with some technology or some chemistry to make another leap ahead, this is kind of daring other people to say, "How can we do this better?"

That is the definition of "Game on, fellow engineers" in my book. Defeat the world!

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