Pictured above: an illustration depicting fast-moving, massless electrons inside cadmium arsenide.
No thicker than a single atom, Graphene is the thinnest material known to man. It is also incredibly flexible and roughly 200 times stronger than steel. According to Columbia University mechanical engineering professor James Hone, “It would take an elephant balanced on a pencil to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap“.
Graphene is also a highly efficient conductor of heat and electricity, making it a valuable material that could some day be used to create ultra-thin, flexible computers. Although Graphene’s material thinness (making it a 2-D material) has many benefits, it is also a hindrance given the amount of graphene needed to construct components and products. This, combined with graphene’s high cost, makes it a less than ideal material for use in making electronic devices.
With graphene temporarily out of the picture, researchers have been hard pressed to discover newer materials that have similar benefits to graphene, but at a fraction of the cost.
Fortunately, researchers from Oxford, SLAC, and Berkely Lab have discovered another very strong, but ‘fully 3-D’ material called Cadmium arsenide that mimics the electronic behavior of graphene. Until graphene as a 2-D super material comes to fruition, Cadmium arsenide may very well be the material of choice for the latest engineering advances.
According to researchers, Cadmium arsenide is a new ‘semi-metal’ that exists in a sturdy 3-D form, making it far easier to shape into electronic components such as very fast transistors, sensors, and transparent electrodes.
Ever since the discovery of graphene, the goal of most researchers has been to discover three-dimensional materials that behave similarly to graphene’s 2-D material, and cadmium arsenide may be their most important discovery to date. It will also be in most of our electronic devices in the near future.