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Engineers Work to Develop Electronic Switch Only Three Atoms Thick

Do you remember when the worst thing that could happen to your electronics was to have them bend? Just ask an iPhone user who upgraded to the iPhone 6, only to have it bend in their pocket. It wasn’t a good thing.

But that may be changing. In fact, we could soon be facing a world full of flexible electronics. Even cellphones that could be woven into shirts. While it may seem a thing of science fiction now, thanks to a few enterprising students, it may soon be a reality.

Karel-Alexander Duerloo, a Stanford Engineering graduate student and first author of an article in Nature Communications and co-author Evan Reed, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering believe they have come up with a way to make an electronic switch that is only three atoms thick.

You read that right – three atoms thick!

Their team created a crystalline structure that can move back and forth between two structures. One conducts electricity, the other doesn’t. “Think of it like flicking a light switch on and off,” says Duerloo. “No would have known this was possible before because they didn’t know where to look.”

According to Duerloo, when one atomic layer of molybdenum atoms gets sandwiched between two atomic layers of tellurium atoms, this type of switch is formed. While this only exists in simulations to this point, the team proved that there is the potential to build such a switch and go even further to create incredibly thin and flexible electronics. The impact this discovery could have on medical engineering is also high.

In 2010, graphene was introduced to the engineering world and was previously the thinnest monolayer. The creators of that were awarded the Nobel Prize. And it’s obvious that there is plenty of room for more innovation. “We’re like the advance scouts that survey the terrain and look for the best materials,” Reed said.

This is amazing news not only for consumers interested in the latest and greatest electronics, but also for engineers and those thinking about entering the field. It wasn’t so long ago that something like this would have been thought impossible. But, thanks to a little innovation, students can make a tremendous amount of impact on our world and discover new technologies that will shape our future.

Want to know more about an exciting career in the field of engineering? The pros at Solopoint Solutions are here to help!