Faster, Cheaper and More Efficient Transistors
Jenn U posted on May 07, 2016 |
New transistor technology sets operating frequency record for silicon transistors at 38 GHz. (Image courtesy of Jung-Hun Seo.)
New transistor technology sets operating frequency record for silicon transistors at 38 GHz. (Image courtesy of Jung-Hun Seo.)

Since its first implementation in 1947, the transistor has been an essential component in compact electronics and has paved the way for the microprocessors used in today’s computers and mobile devices. 

Typically, silicon transistors have frequencies ranging in the megahertz; however, researchers have discovered a simple process to improve these transistors.

An engineering research team has developed a process to create flexible silicon transistors with an operating frequency of 38 GHz and a simulated capability of up to 110 GHz.

The researchers applied a dopant over their entire material, enhancing the electrical conductivity of the base single crystalline silicon. The researchers then created a mold using electron-beam lithography, in which an electron beam is used to remove material from a light-sensitive photoresist layer. This mold was used to mark the silicon substrate with a nanoscale dry-etching knife, creating trenches in the conductive material.

This process, called nanoimprint lithography, results in a precise, efficient and super-compact product, which in turn allows for more powerful and tightly packed processors. Because the mold can be reused, these processors can be mass-produced quickly and relatively inexpensively. The resulting transistors can also be used to transmit data and transfer power wirelessly. 

With the uses for compact devices growing, this development is a major step forward for a host of applications. Smartwatches could become more compact and wearable technology could become easier to integrate into clothing as processors become smaller. Mobile devices—phones and tablets—could become more powerful. These advances could be coming sooner than you might think. 

“We don’t want to make [transistors] the way the semiconductor industry does now,” said Professor Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma, who led the research at the University of Wisconsin Madison. “Our step, which is most critical for roll-to-roll printing, is ready.”

Read more about the research here

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