Designer Crystals For Next-Gen Electronics

Crystals of metallic organic frameworks with extremely large surface area could revolutionize electronics, researchers say.

AsianScientist (Dec. 28, 2015) – Researchers have used vapor instead of liquid to grow designer crystals, a first which could lead to a new breed of faster, more powerful electronic devices. The crystals resulting from the new method, published in Nature Materials, might overcome the damaging and corroding effect of liquids on electronic components.

The crystals, known as ‘metallic organic frameworks’ or MOFs, are the world’s most porous materials. If applied to microelectronic devices, MOFs could significantly boost their processing power. They were grown using a vapor method, similar to steam hovering over a pot of hot water, by researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, the National University of Singapore and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

According to CSIRO researcher Dr. Mark Styles, up until now such crystals could only be grown and applied using a liquid solvent, making them unsuitable for electronics applications.

“Just like your smart phone doesn’t like being dropped in water, electronic devices don’t like the liquid solvent that’s used to grow MOF crystals, because it can corrode and damage the delicate circuitry,” Styles said.

Styles said the new vapor method overcomes the liquid barrier and has the potential to disrupt the microelectronics industry.

“On the atomic scale, MOF crystals look like bird cages that can be tailor-made to be different shapes and sizes. They have an extremely large surface area, meaning they can be up to 80 percent empty inside,” explains Styles.

The large surface area means that every atom is exposed to empty space, and that one gram of MOF crystals has a surface area of over 5,000 square meters, the size of a football field.

“Crucially, we can use this vast space to trap other molecules, which can change the properties of a material. In the case of electronics, this means we can fit a lot more transistors on a microchip, making it faster and far more powerful,” explains Styles.

The research team, led by Ivo Stassen and Professor Rob Ameloot from the University of Leuven in Belgium, drew on specialist X-ray analysis techniques from CSIRO and the Australian Synchrotron to understand how the vapor process works, and how it can be used to grow the MOF crystals.

According to Styles, the applications for MOFs is only limited by the imagination.

“Another potential use for this technology would be in portable chemical sensing devices that could be used in hazardous environments such as chemical processing plants and underground mines,” he said.

The article can be found at: Stassen et al. (2015) Chemical Vapour Deposition of Zeolitic Imidazolate Framework Thin Films.


Source: CSIRO; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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