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Research could lead to reduced power consumption and better computers

By UB REPORTER STAFF

Published May 21, 2015

“By purposely engineering the materials used in these technologies, we discover new phenomena which open new perspectives and possibilities not found in the natural world.”
Athos Petrou, UB Distinguished Professor
Department of Physics

The ability to engineer materials at the nanoscale has made possible a revolution in information technology — today’s smartphones, for example, have the capacity of yesterday’s super computers.

Now, UB investigators are part of a team whose research could one day lead to even smaller, more powerful technologies.

The research, published online on May 11 in Nature Nanotechnology, is a collaboration between the University of Ottawa, the National Research Council Canada, UB and the University of Crete.

By studying a single atomic layer, isolated with tungsten disulfide — an extremely slippery material — the partners have discovered that the properties of electrons in a single layer change drastically. This could lead to new technologies that significantly reduce energy consumption.

“This is one example of very large, worldwide activity addressing societal problems,” says Athos Petrou, UB Distinguished Professor in physics and one of the leaders of the research. “By purposely engineering the materials used in these technologies, we discover new phenomena which open new perspectives and possibilities not found in the natural world.”

“The fact that we will now be able to make transistors and lasers with materials that are just one single atomic layer in thickness gives us a world of new possibilities,” adds Professor Pawel Hawrylak, University of Ottawa research chair in materials, nanostructures and devices. “We can make technology smaller and more effective. What is thinner than a single atomic layer?”

By confining electrons to a single atomic layer that can act both as a transistor and as a laser, power consumption can be reduced. In the future, this may mean that computers will not only be extremely powerful, but also much smaller and, more importantly, greener.