Futurity

Newly discovered molecule smashes the limits of insulation

The molecule is the most current-insulating ever to be discovered. It could also lead to much smaller phones and computers.

Researchers have discovered the most current-insulating molecule yet.

The discovery has broken the widely accepted limit of insulation properties and has the potential to influence the future of electronics.

“…current size limits for insulating materials can be broken.”

“We have found an extremely current-insulating molecule, one that isn’t just the most insulating yet to be studied, but so insulating that a similarly-sized void would be more conductive than the functional part of this molecule,” says Gemma C. Solomon, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen.

It is a revolutionary achievement, since a void—a vacuum—is widely accepted to be the maximum theoretical limit for how insulating something can be.

Molecules are nature’s microscopic building blocks, measuring roughly one nanometer—a billionth of a meter. The size of today’s electronic components, computer transistors for example, is limited by how small current-insulating components can be made.

When the size of a material gets down to about one nanometer, it becomes conductive. Therefore, the design of new insulating materials for electronics is a major challenge.

“Computers have become exponentially more powerful, and many industries gather enormous amounts of data. But in time, the scale of data collection will become limited by the size and power of computers themselves,” Solomon explains.

By means of what is known as the quantum-mechanical interference effect, the research team has successfully suppressed current conductivity in materials of roughly one nanometer. However, they don’t expect the new current-insulating molecule to end up in computers or electronic gadgets any time soon.

According to Solomon, “Our results demonstrate that current size limits for insulating materials can be broken. The broader perspective is that we have found a way to make current-insulating components even smaller than they are today.”

Additional contributors are from Copenhagen, Columbia University, and Shanghai Normal University in China. The research project appears in Nature.

Source: University of Copenhagen

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