IBM's breakthrough relates to a semiconductor-manufacturing method called spin-coating, in which a semiconducting material is spread onto a fast-spinning wafer. The research team found a new way to dissolve inorganic semiconducting materials called chalcogenides, which let electrical charges move through them 10 times more easily than previously used organic materials. That could lead to more-effective circuits and applications in manufacturing bendable or wearable displays, solar cells, and other devices, Mitzi says. IBM applied the chalcogenides to a wafer in a film about 5 billionths of a meter thick, and thinks the technique can be applied to larger surfaces as well.
To dissolve them, the researchers used hydrazine, a toxic and explosive material used in rocket fuel that Mitzi says the team is trying to replace with another solvent. So far, he adds, the researchers have replaced 80% of the hydrazine with water.