Feb 3, 2024

New material design for transistors could downsize next-gen tech

Posted by in categories: computing, materials

By better taming the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of an alternative to the semiconductor—one that transitions from electricity-resisting insulator to current-conducting metal—Nebraska’s Xia Hong and colleagues may have unlocked a new path to smaller, more efficient digital devices. The team reports its findings in the journal Nature Communications.

The semiconductor’s ability to conduct electricity in the Goldilocks zone—poorer than a metal, better than an insulator—positioned it as the just-right choice for engineers looking to build transistors, the tiny on-off switches that encode the 1s and 0s of binary. Apply some voltage to the control knob known as a gate insulator, and the semiconductor channel allows electric current to flow ; remove it, and that flow ceases.

Millions of those nanoscopic, semiconductor-based transistors now coat modern microchips, switching on and off to collectively process or store data. But as minuscule as the transistors already are, the demands of consumers and competition continue pushing to shrink them even further, either for the sake of squeezing in more functionality or downsizing the devices that house them.

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