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A new method for developing efficient electronic components

Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh dealing in the field of nanomaterials propose to use vacuum methods in order to overcome the limitations of common electronic components - semiconductors based on silicon.

Illustration of the innovative transistor: an aluminum electrode with a square opening coated with a gallium droplet electrode, on which a tungsten channel is placed.
Illustration of the innovative transistor: an aluminum electrode with a square opening coated with a gallium droplet electrode, on which a tungsten channel is placed.

Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh dealing in the field of nanomaterials propose to use vacuum methods in order to overcome the limitations of common electronic components - semiconductors based on silicon.

Along with the appearance of transistors made of semiconductor materials - invented in 1947 as a replacement for the bulky and inefficient vacuum tubes - came the constant demand for the development of faster and more energy efficient technologies. In order to meet this requirement, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh propose an innovative version of an old method: a transition from the use of silicon-based electronic components back to vacuum tubes as a medium in which the electrons move - a change that is a significant deviation in the trend of electronics. The scientists' research findings were published in the online scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology on July XNUMX.

Over the past 40 years, the number of transistors embedded within printed circuits in devices such as computers and smartphones has doubled every two years, a rate that has made these devices faster and more efficient. This doubling rate, known as "Moore's Law", is a consequence of scientists' continued ability to minimize the size of the transistor and thereby produce computer chips with better efficiency. However, since the size of the transistor has reached the end of its possible nanometer value, a situation has arisen in which the possibility of extending Moore's law even more has become more and more challenging and expensive.

"Physical barriers prevent scientists from developing more efficient electronic components," said the study's lead scientist, Hong Koo Kim, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Engineering. "We worked to remove this obstacle by investigating transistors and their predecessors in the role - vacuum tubes."

The threshold value of the transistor's activity speed, says the lead researcher, is determined by the "electron transit time", that is, the length of time required for a single electron to move from one device to another device. Electrons moving inside a semiconductor often experience collisions or are scattered in the solid medium. The lead researcher compares this to driving a car on a road full of bumps - the cars cannot accelerate their speed to a great extent. Similarly, obtaining the electron energy required to develop faster electronic components is prevented.

"The best way to avoid this dispersion - the "traffic jam" - would be to not use a medium at all, in the form of a vacuum or air that exists in the nanometer space," explains the researcher. "Compare it to a plane flying through the air to its destination without any obstacles."

At the same time, explains the lead researcher, normal vacuum electronics devices require the use of high voltage, and are not suitable for many applications. Therefore, his research team decided to redesign the structure of vacuum electronics devices. The research team discovered that electrons trapped inside the semiconductor at the interface with an oxide or with a metal layer can be easily extracted into the air. The "anchored" electrons in the interface area create a layer of charges, known as "two-dimensional electron gas". The researchers discovered that the electrical repulsion - the interaction between electrically charged particles - in the gas layer allows the electrons to easily escape out of the silicon. The researchers were able to efficiently extract electrons from the silicon into air by applying a negligible electrical voltage, and route them so that they can move ballistically within a nanometer channel without any collisions or scattering.

"The form of emission of this electron system into channels filled with vacuum could lead to a new family of fast transistors operating at low voltage, and in addition it is suitable for existing electronic components based on silicon," explains the researcher.

In light of these findings, claims the lead researcher, there is a possibility that the vacuum transistor idea will return, but in a significantly different and improved form. The news about the study

Illustration of the innovative transistor: an aluminum electrode with a square opening coated with a gallium droplet electrode, on which a tungsten channel is placed.

2 תגובות

  1. That is, here it is not about minimizing the device, but about speeding up its operation. I understand it right?

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