Photo credit: Christine Daniloff, MIT
Silicon is best known as the foundation for modern technology, whether it be solar cells to computer chips, but MIT researchers think that its properties for semiconductors are far from ideal. Why? It’s not particularly efficient at conducting heat, resulting in overheating issues and pricey computer cooling systems.
Researchers from MIT, the University of Houston, and other institutions discovered that cubic boron arsenide does not let electrons easily pass through its structure and is great at conducting heat. Since it has excellent thermal conductivity, it’s touted as the best semiconductor material ever found. However, more work is required to determine whether cubic boron arsenide can be made in a practical, economical form, or in quantities to possibly replace silicon. With that said, Sam Zeloof’s homemade ‘Z2’ silicon chip boasting 1200 resistors is still impressive nonetheless.
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Heat is now a major bottleneck for many electronics. Silicon carbide is replacing silicon for power electronics in major EV industries including Tesla, since it has three times higher thermal conductivity than silicon despite its lower electrical mobilities. Imagine what boron arsenides can achieve, with 10 times higher thermal conductivity and much higher mobility than silicon. It can be a gamechanger,” said Jungwoo Shin, MIT postdoc.