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Researchers Build First Molybdenite Microchip 67

An anonymous reader writes "A Swiss team may have found an alternative to silicon microchips which could result in smaller, more flexible and less energy hungry processors. The Swiss team's chip does not use silicon, but molybdenite (MoS2) a dark-colored, naturally occurring mineral that is able to be used in much thinner layers (paywall)."
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Researchers Build First Molybdenite Microchip

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @10:55AM (#38290748)

    This has already been reported: []

    And yes, they're the same. They link to the same Nature Nano article...

  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ardor ( 673957 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @10:55AM (#38290758)

    I tend to agree, however, keep in mind:
    Silicon is abundant. Highly pure silicon is not. You need the latter for microchips.

  • Re:But (Score:5, Informative)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @10:58AM (#38290800)
    Wikipedia says Molybdenum is the 54th most abundant element on Earth. This is less abundant than silicon, but nowhere near as rare as other commonly used elements in semiconductors; Indium is far more rare.
  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <> on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @10:59AM (#38290804) Homepage

    Gold, sure; platinum, no problem; silicon, WTF?

    Yes, the molybdenite is used as the primary material in crafting the transistors themselves, silicon is used for the packaging and insulation.

    Abundant as compared to what? Silicon is the third most abundant element on earth and makes up 15% of its mass. Molybdenum is a rare earth element. Also, you can't use the current price of some element based on it not being used to make microprocessors and expect that the cost won't change if you increase the demand for it by many orders of magnitude.

    There might be good reasons for building microprocessors from molybdenite but replacing scarce silicon with abundant molybdenite is not one of them.

    While it's true that there is a lot of silicon on Earth, it however cannot just be mined and used directly. The silicon must be purified to a very high degree before it can be used in microchips and that is costly and consumes a lot of silicon.

  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @11:29AM (#38291094)

    Molybdenum is not a rare earth element (lanthanoid), it's a transition metal.
    And rare earth elements are not neccessarily rare.

  • Re:But (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sique ( 173459 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @11:57AM (#38291450) Homepage

    But not as common as Silicon, which you can literally shovel in your backyard - the upper layer of the Earth crust is called Sial because of the two most abundant metals, Silicon and Aluminium. Iron comes in as a strong third.

    There is a reason, why the three commerically most used metals are also the three most abundant. Molybdenum is often found in the compounds iron ore consists of, but it takes quite some energy to extract the Molybdenum from the iron ore.

  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @12:59PM (#38292302)

    Well, silicon is a metaloid, and by price, ultra-high-purity silicon is certainly precious.

    A 300mm IC-grade wafer costs about $150. Weights about 1.6 grams.

    That's about $93,000/kilo. Gold is about $55,000/kilo.

  • Re:But (Score:5, Informative)

    by MagusSlurpy ( 592575 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @02:20PM (#38293258) Homepage

    It takes less energy to get moly out of ferrous ore than it does to reduce silicon oxide to silicon. It's also a matter of availability - even though there's more silicon than molybdenum, molybdenum is often much more pure, and found in distinct deposits, and easy to mine, versus silicon being mixed in with all kinds of other crap and distributed wildly all throughout the crust. It's the same thing with rare earths - for example, indium isn't actually rare, it's just that it's EVERYWHERE in very small amounts, instead of convenient little deposits like gold, which is in the crust at about 1/500th the amount.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."