Researchers from Cornell University have developed a method for creating semiconductors that are incredibly thin. At just three atoms thick, and with yield rates better than any other ultra-thin transistor, these new transistors could be used in next-generation ultra-thin devices.

The ultra-thin transistors were produced using an experimental compound called transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD). While the material has been known to researchers for some time, the breakthrough from Cornell University allows the material to be manufactured using a much easier, much more successful process.

An article from Nature describes the complicated process for manufacturing TMDs with good electron mobility and just a few defects. Most importantly, after baking a silicon wafer containing 200 TMD-based transistors, just two of them failed to conduct, resulting in a success rate of 99 percent.

Saien Xie, one of the lead authors for the research paper, says that their work "pushes TMDs to the technologically relevant scale, showing the promise of making devices on that scale". This could lead to the technology being commercially viable, although the team wants to continue to streamline the manufacturing process and ensure TMDs can be produced consistently before thinking about their implementation in cutting-edge devices.

Ultra-thin TMD-based transistors could be used to create a wide variety of electronic items, including solar cells, sensors, and even microprocessors. The material could end up rivaling graphene in the race to extend Moore's Law, where engineers are fighting to create new processors with more transistors in smaller areas.

Having a semiconductor that's just three atoms thick could help these engineers create CPUs with next-generation levels of transistor density.