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Tiny compound semiconductor transistor could challenge silicon’s dominance

December 12, 2012 09:23 AM EST By: Jennifer Rocha

MIT researchers develop the smallest indium gallium arsenide transistor ever built.

Story content courtesy of MIT

The compound transistor, built by a team in MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories, performs well despite being just 22 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in length. This makes it a promising candidate to eventually replace silicon in computing devices, says co-developer Jesús del Alamo, the Donner Professor of Science in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), who built the transistor with EECS graduate student Jianqian Lin and Dimitri Antoniadis, the Ray and Maria Stata Professor of Electrical Engineering.

To keep Moore’s Law alive, researchers have for some time been investigating alternatives to silicon, which could potentially produce a larger current even when operating at these smaller scales. One such material is the compound indium gallium arsenide, which is already used in fiber-optic communication and radar technologies, and is known to have extremely good electrical properties, del Alamo says. But despite recent advances in treating the material to allow it to be formed into a transistor in a similar way to silicon, nobody has yet been able to produce devices small enough to be packed in ever-greater numbers into tomorrow’s microchips.

Now del Alamo, Antoniadis and Lin have shown it is possible to build a nanometer-sized metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) — the type most commonly used in logic applications such as microprocessors — using the material.

Their next step will be to work on further improving the electrical performance — and hence the speed — of the transistor by eliminating unwanted resistance within the device. Once they have achieved this, they will attempt to further shrink the device, with the ultimate aim of reducing the size of their transistor to below 10 nanometers in gate length.

The research was funded by DARPA and the Semiconductor Research Corporation.

 

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