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RMIT researchers develop transistor that uses air pathways instead of silicon

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 28th, 2018

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne have developed a unique transistor that improves on current silicon-based technologies.

Instead of sending electrical currents through silicon — which limits speed and causes overheating — the new transistor sends electrons through narrow air gaps, where they can travel unimpeded.

“Every computer and phone has millions to billions of electronic transistors made from silicon, but this technology is reaching its physical limits where the silicon atoms get in the way of the current flow, limiting speed and causing heat,” says RMIT researcher Shruti Nirantar. “Our air channel transistor technology has the current flowing through air, so there are no collisions to slow it down and no resistance in the material to produce heat.”

Although the power of computer chips has increased for decades, the rate of progress has slowed recently as engineers struggle to make transistor parts smaller while the number of transistors squeezed onto silicon chips continues to grow.

“Imagine walking on a densely crowded street in an effort to get from point A to B. The crowd slows your progress and drains your energy,” says lead researcher Sharath Sriram. “We address this by creating a nanoscale gap between two metal points. The gap is only a few tens of nanometers, or 50,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, but it’s enough to fool electrons into thinking that they are traveling through a vacuum and re-create a virtual outer space for electrons within the nanoscale air gap.”

According to Sriram, the technology “aims to create something out of nothing to significantly increase speed of electronics and maintain a pace of rapid technological progress.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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