A three-atom thick transistor has been developed that scientists believe could herald a new generation of ultrathin and flexible electronics, solar cells and displays.

Researchers at Cornell University created the transistor using an experimental material called a transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD).

The research, published in the journal Nature on Thursday, details how the process used to create the transistors is stable enough to produce them commercially.

"The electrical performance or our materials was comparable to that of reported results from single crystals of molybdenum disulfide, but instead of a tiny crystal, here we have a 4-inch wafer," said Jiwoong Park, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell.

Creating ultrathin sheets rather than single crystal formations has been the biggest barrier to reaching the ultimate goal of using the transistors in actual devices.

A technique called metal organic chemical vapour deposition (MOCVD), commonly used within an industrial context, was used to form the films one layer of atoms at a time.

The MOCVD method was also used to create a separate transistor film with different electrical properties and colour.

"These were only the first two materials, but we want to make a whole palette of materials," Park said.

Of the 200 ulrathin transistors produced by the researchers, only two failed to conduct, meaning the technique carries a 99% success rate.

Several obstacles still need to be overcome before the sheets can be used in workable electronic devices, including ways to produce the TMDs at a lower temperature to avoid other components combusting.