Atomically thin electronics built using chemical reactions

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There have been a variety of demonstrations of the capabilities that atomically thin materials can bring to electronics—extremely small size, excellent performance, and some distinctive properties. But almost all of these demonstrations required that the electronics being tested were essentially assembled by hand. Materials like graphene are often placed on a surface at random, and then the wiring needed for it to function is built around that location. It’s not exactly a recipe for mass production.

To the extent there’s been some progress, it’s been limited. One of the more recent efforts involved using graphene and molybdenum disulfide to make the transistor with the smallest gate length. In this case, the two atomically thin materials had to be placed carefully, but not exactly. Any excess material was etched away, and a key feature was made by cutting through the graphene sheet.

This week saw a somewhat different take on constructing these minuscule devices: chemistry. A research team linked up the two materials used in the earlier study, graphene and molybdenum disulfide, using a single bridging molecule that could react with each of them. The chemistry of the bridging molecule also influenced the behavior of a device made using this approach.

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