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The Australian National University (ANU) has developed a system for transporting data using atomically thin semiconductors in an extremely energy-efficient manner. The breakthrough could one day be used to power next-generation computers and smartphones that use less energy than current devices.
This new and vastly improved level of energy efficiency is achieved by combining excitons—electrons bound with electron holes—with light in one-atom thin semiconductors 100,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper. This new, energy-saving semiconductor technology has shown very promising signs of requiring less electricity to run by emitting no heat, implying that no energy is wasted.
Researchers developed a system to transport data using atomically-thin semiconductors in a way that is extremely energy-efficient. The breakthrough could one day help power next-gen computers and smartphones that consume less electricity than current devices.
The ANU team is the first to successfully demonstrate the efficient transportation of information carriers—particles that can transport data in computers—in these atomically thin semiconductors at room temperature, which is a necessary first step in creating tomorrow’s computers and smartphones.
The team hopes that the technology will pave the way for long-term growth in computing by reducing wasted energy consumption, which is a challenge for scientists all over the world. “Computers already use around 10% of all globally available electricity, a figure that comes at a massive financial and environmental cost, and is predicted to double every 10 years due to rising computing demand,” said ANU Research School of Physics Ph.D. scholar Matthias Wurdack.
“Estimates show that our computing devices, the internet, data centers, and other digital technologies account for at least 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is comparable to the pre-covid rate of aviation.”
According to Mr Wurdack, the study’s lead author, this new development addresses the heating problem that drives electricity consumption in thousands of massive, factory-sized data centers around the world. “A huge amount of energy is wasted by computers because the electricity used to power it heats up the device as it performs its tasks,” he said.
The ANU researchers believe that a shift toward new energy-efficient information technologies and a potential reduction in global energy consumption will reduce the need for as many coal-fired power plants, lowering the amount of harmful emissions released into the atmosphere.
“Because producing, storing, and supplying energy always has a cost, including air pollution and climate change from the use of fossil fuels, it is critical that we reduce our electricity usage for a more sustainable future,” Mr Wurdack said.
According to corresponding author and ANU Professor Elena Ostrovskaya, who is also the Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET), this study is part of a global effort to develop low-energy semiconductor technologies for computing and information processing.
“There are many other possibilities for future research, such as the development of energy-efficient sensors and lasers based on this semiconductor technology,” Professor Ostrovskaya explained. The technology will then be incorporated into transistors, which are the building blocks of computers. The paper was published in Nature Communications and includes authors from Germany, Poland, and Australia, as well as seven ANU researchers.
Finally, the study demonstrates how economic and environmental factors affect the electric sector. The Standard Scenarios results, which include useful observations for academics, lab researchers, and policymakers alike, may prompt major stakeholders to consider and address new energy analysis questions.