The discovery of the revolutionary material called graphene, made from simple pencil lead and the process of removing the atoms with scotch tape, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. It was not just the fact that this one atom thick material is a hundred times stronger than steel and widely available that did it. It was also that graphene can drastically increase for instance battery performance and computing speed. But for all its wondrous properties, the material apparently has a flaw: electrical leakage.
This is where molybdenum comes in. Molybdenum or moly in short is currently mostly used as an alloying agent in the steel industry. But by playing around with its unique qualities scientists have been able to make a whole new host of products. Ranging from thin film solar panels, to cheaper cathodes for hydrogen generation and recently to exponentially increased computing speed through the use of the latest nano computing technology.
The most important difference with graphene is that moly is a semiconductor. And as a semiconductor, moly is much more energy efficient than the most commonly used semiconductor silicon. Combine this with the fact that moly can be made into transistors as small as 0,65 nanometers thick and 5 nanometers long and silicon has met its first real competitor.
But what does this all mean for the future? As it appears now, molybdenum and graphene will go hand in hand in revolutionising computing technology by making it smaller, faster and more energy efficient. But these materials also have the potential to generate and store energy and as such have a tremendous influence on the efficiency of power plants and technologies like electrics cars.
Whatever will happen, the marriage between molybdenum and graphene might be one with positively far reaching consequences for a massive number of industries.
© Jorn van Dooren | www.bitsofscience.org