A new class of steatites made of an alloy of rare-earth elements is being developed by researchers at Cornell University, and could provide a material for the next generation of electronic devices.
A team led by lead researcher J. Scott O’Brien at Cornell has identified a new type of ceramic that can be manufactured by a process that uses high-temperature steatitic (hydroxyl) minerals to form an electrically conducting wire, and can also be combined with other minerals to make a material that is electrically conductive at a lower temperature.
The new ceramical material, a “stetial” material made of the rare- and abundant-earth metals cobalt and manganese, could be a replacement for silicon, the conductor of electronic circuits.
It’s not a replacement of silicon as the conductor, but it can be made with the silicon in place and could replace silicon in certain applications, such as in high-density solar cells.
“There is a very large demand for semiconductors,” said O’Brian, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and a co-author of a paper on the research published in the journal Advanced Materials.
“In the future, semiconductive materials may be more important than they have been in the past.”
The new stetial material is made from the minerals cobalt, manganite and feldspar, which can be found in the mineral-rich mineral olivine and other ores that can form a type of silicate called sinterstone.
The material’s composition has a unique shape and is a material of very high tensile strength.
O’Briens team identified that stetium-rich materials are typically made of silicates and found in rare-element veins in the Earth’s crust, which contain more than 3,000 elements.
“You can tell it’s not just one mineral,” O’Brane said.
“It’s a very specific type of mineral, and it’s in the veins of these ores.
You can see the veins where the ores have been deposited.
So, there’s very specific mineralogy there.
So the veins are very unique and the stetials are a very unique mineral.”
O’Brien, who has spent his career developing and testing ceramides and other electronic materials, said the discovery could help researchers understand the properties of a material’s electrical properties.
“If you look at the structure of a wire, it looks like a bunch of wires,” he said.
“This is a special kind of material.
It looks like it’s made of a particular type of material.”
He said it’s the first time anyone has made ceramates that have a unique structure.
“We’ve been looking for a material like this for a long time, but there has been a lot of progress,” he explained.
“The cerames are made of different minerals.
The stetia [structure] is very unique, so it’s really exciting.
We’re excited about the discovery of this material.”
The stetiodes are composed of two types of material: cobalt-rich and manhgrite-rich.
O’Brennies group found that the cobalt material is particularly resistant to thermal degradation and corrosion, which O’Malley said are important properties for high-performance electronics.
“When you’re talking about an electronic circuit, you need a conductor, which is a conductor that’s very good at resisting corrosion,” he noted.
“So, you can expect to see better performance from this material, because it’s also highly conductive.”
Obeders added that the stethium-structure could be useful in other applications, including in high density solar cells, because the ceramic material is much stronger than silicon, but less conductive than silicon.
“They are very stable, and they are also very strong,” Obeers said.
The materials have a much lower melting point, meaning they can be processed with a less expensive process than silicon-based semiconducting materials, which require special equipment and large amounts of energy.
The research is one of the first to use ceramically-produced materials for electronics.
Obeens group also is working on other applications for the materials, including supercapacitors, supercapactitors, and other technologies.