Welcome to the world of atoms: Huanyao Cun is working on the future of semiconductor technology.
You work with 2D boron nitrides, Ms. Cun. Can you explain to a layperson what that means?
Boron nitride (BN) is a chemically and electronically inert compound that must be synthesized from its components boron and nitrogen in a ratio of 1:1. In its two-dimensional form – in layers that are only one atom thick – BN is the most promising insulator for the realization of future graph-based electronics.
The chips in our electronic devices are made of silicon. Why graphene and boron nitride?
Because the material silicon has physical limits. Below a transistor channel width of five nanometers, it changes its electrical properties. The semiconductor industry is expected to reach this level by 2023. If no new solution is found, Moore’s law, according to which the performance of computer chips doubles every 18 months, will become invalid after 60 years.
We are talking about an epochal challenge: What makes you optimistic that your path is the right one?
The fact that 2D boron nitride is the ideal insulator for graphene related electronic devices is undisputed. The hurdle was previously the production of BN on an industrial scale. We believe that we can offer a solution for this.
You work as Senior Scientist at the Institute of Surface Physics of the University of Zurich. What happens next?
We would like to found our start-up this year. At the moment we are working on obtaining the necessary money from foundations and individuals for the start-up phase. The university does not put any obstacles in our way. On the contrary, I learnt about a Business Concept Course from the university. I asked my professor what he thinks about this and he said that we could only benefit from such initiative.