Researchers use new materials to develop world’s smallest transistor which is just 1 nanometer in its length.
Mankind is on a journey of science and technology where quicker and more potent computers and electronic items keep turning up at every corner. It is here that real progress comes in small packages.
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The superbly-functioning silicon-based transistors that are to be found in today’s electronic gizmos and gadgets have been getting tinier and tinier. This causes these devices to get faster and faster while consuming the least amount of energy. Yet even such a material as silicon has its glass ceiling.
Therefore the experts are on the lookout for substitute materials that work better than the standard silicon material. A study published today in the journal Science, lends a clue or two about a novel development on this front.
A new transistor has been developed from a mixture of materials that is more compact than the most compact of silicon-based transistors.
The problem is that silicon transistors have reached their minimum size limit. You cannot take the process any further. It is here that research points to alternative sources where these barriers to minimalism could be broken.
Transmission electron microscope image of a cross section of the transistor. It shows the 1-nanometer carbon nanotube gate and the molybdenum disulfide semiconductor separated by zirconium dioxide, an insulator. Credit: Qingxiao Wang/UT Dallas
The new transistor was manufactured and had theoretical simulations of its operations performed. An atomic resolution electron microscope was used to lay out the traits of the contraption.
As current goes through a transistor, it is almost like electrons that flow through a channel. This occurs in the same manner as water leaving a tap and entering a sink.
A gate in the transistor manages the pace of the flow of electrons. Today’s best silicon-based transistors have a gate that is at least 10 nanometers in width.
Theoretically the lower limit for these transistors is 5 nanometers. However, this novel transistor has a gate that is 1 nanometer in width which is simply amazing to behold.
One issue in such a small-sized transistor is that the electrons can sneak in at random through the gate even when the device is shut off. The reduction of this current leakage is the next big task before the scientists.
The device does have its strengths when compared with past transistors. Silicon was not utilized in its creation. Instead semiconductor materials termed transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) were employed to get the job done.
Molybdenum disulphide was used to construct the channel and a single-walled carbon nanotube was employed to make the gate. There are many more challenges that still exist before this mini transistor can become practically feasible. Its mass manufacturing remains a possibility for future times.