Silicon has had a long run as the king of semiconductors, and why not? It’s plentiful and works well. However, working well and working ideally are two different things. In particular, electrons flow better than holes through the material. Silicon also is a poor heat conductor as we’ve all noticed when working with high-speed or high-power electronics. Researchers at MIT, the University of Houston, and other institutions are proposing cubic boron arsenide to overcome these limitations.
According to researchers, this material is a superior semiconductor and, possibly, the best possible semiconductor. Unfortunately, the material isn’t nearly as common as silicon. Labs have created small amounts of the material and there is still a problem with fabricating uniform samples.
Early experiments show the material has very high mobility for electrons and holes along with thermal conductivity almost ten times greater than that of silicon. It also has a good bandgap, making it very attractive as a semiconductor material. In fact, only diamond and isotopically enriched cubic boron nitride have better thermal conductivity.
However, there are still unknowns about how to use the material in practical devices. Long-term stability tests are as lacking. So maybe it will wipe out silicon or maybe it won’t. Time will tell.
We are always on the lookout for the next big semiconductor material. However, we suspect this tech will be out of reach to the home semiconductor fab, at least for a little while.