Researchers from The Ohio State University are working to turn germanium into a potential replacement for silicon.

Since creating a one-atom-thick sheet of germanane, the university team has now created hybrid versions of the material that incorporate other atoms such as tin. The heavier tin atom allows the material to become a 2D topological insulator. Such a material is predicted to occur only with specific bonds across the top and bottom surface, including a hydroxide bond.

The overall goal is to make a material that not only transmits electrons ten times faster than silicon, but to make one that is also better at absorbing and emitting light — an essential feature for the advancement of efficient LEDs and lasers. As the lab researchers create the various forms of germanane, the researchers are exploiting traditional silicon manufacturing methods as much as possible.

Aside from traditional semiconductor applications, there have been numerous predictions that a tin version of the material could conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency at room temperature.