Single-atom-thick layers of arsenic and antimony could be efficient semiconductors that have more applications than other two-dimensional materials.

Atom-thick materials can have unique electronic and optical properties, but some operate only at certain wavelengths of light, owing to small 'band gaps'. On the basis of quantum mechanical calculations, Zhongfang Chen at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan, Haibo Zeng at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology in China and their colleagues predict that arsenic and antimony can switch from being semi-metallic in bulk to semiconducting as a single-atom layer. These materials, called arsenene and antimonene, have wider band gaps than other two-dimensional semiconductors, meaning that they could be used in short-wavelength optoelectronic devices such as blue or ultraviolet light-emitting diodes.

The authors say that such materials could soon be synthesized in the lab.

Angew. Chem. Int. Edn (2015)