Overcoming Moore's Law: How to Replace Traditional Planar Transistors

    We discuss alternatives to the development of semiconductor products.

    / photo Taylor Vick Unsplash

    Last time we talked about materials that can replace silicon in the production of transistors and expand their capabilities. Today we are discussing alternative approaches to the development of semiconductor products and what application they will find in data centers.

    Piezoelectric transistors

    Such devices have in their structure piezoelectric and piezoresistive components. The first converts electrical impulses into sound ones. The second one absorbs these sound waves, contracts and, accordingly, opens or closes the transistor. Samarium selenide ( slide 14 ) is used as a piezoresistive substance - depending on the pressure, it behaves either as a semiconductor (with high resistance) or as a metal.

    One of the first to present the concept of a piezoelectric transistor at IBM. The company's engineers have been developing in this area since 2012 . Their colleagues from the National Physical Laboratory of Great Britain, the University of Edinburgh and Auburn also work in this direction.

    A piezoelectric transistor dissipates significantly less energy than silicon devices. First of all, they plan to use the technology in small gadgets, from which it is difficult to remove heat - smartphones, radio devices, radars.

    Piezoelectric transistors can also be used in server processors for data centers. The technology will increase the energy efficiency of hardware and will reduce the cost of data center operators on IT infrastructure.

    Tunneling transistors

    One of the main tasks of manufacturers of semiconductor devices is the design of transistors that can be switched at low voltages. Tunnel transistors are able to solve it. Such devices are controlled by the quantum tunnel effect .

    Thus, when an external voltage is applied, the switching of the transistor is faster, since electrons are more likely to cross the dielectric barrier. As a result, the device requires several times lower voltage to operate.

    The development of tunneling transistors involved scientists from MIPT and the Japanese University of Tohoku. They used bilayer graphene to createa device that runs 10–100 times faster than silicon counterparts. According to engineers, their technology will allow them to design processors that will be twenty times more productive than modern flagship models.

    / photo PxHere PD

    At different times, prototypes of tunneling transistors were implemented using various materials - in addition to graphene, they were nanotubes and silicon . However, the technology has not yet left the walls of laboratories, and there is no question of large-scale production of devices based on it.

    Spin transistors

    Their work is based on the movement of electron spins. Spins move using an external magnetic field, ordering them in one direction and forming a spin current. Devices working with this current consume a hundred times less energy than silicon transistors, and can switch at a speed of a billion times per second.

    The main advantage of spin devices is their versatility. They combine the functions of an information storage device, a detector for reading it, and a switch for transmitting it to other elements of the chip.

    It is believed that the first spin transistor concept was introduced by engineers Supriyo Datta and Biswajit Das in 1990. Since then, large IT companies, such as Intel , have taken up development in this area . However, as engineers admit , spin transistors will not appear in consumer products yet.

    Metal to Air Transistors

    At its core, the principles of operation and the design of the metal-air transistor resemble MOSFET transistors . With some exceptions: the drain and source of the new transistor are metal electrodes. The shutter of the device is located under them and is insulated with an oxide film.

    The drain and source are set apart from each other at a distance of thirty nanometers, which allows electrons to freely pass through airspace. The exchange of charged particles occurs due to field emission .

    He is engaged in the development of metal-air transistorsteam from university in Melbourne - RMIT. Engineers say the technology will “breathe new life” into Moore’s law and allow the construction of entire 3D networks from transistors. Chip manufacturers will be able to stop engaged in an endless reduction in technological processes and will engage in the formation of compact 3D architectures.

    According to developers, the operating frequency of the new type of transistors will exceed hundreds of gigahertz. The release of technology to the masses will expand the capabilities of computing systems and increase the performance of servers in data centers.

    Now the team is looking for investors to continue their research and solve technological difficulties. The drain and source electrodes melt under the influence of an electric field - this reduces the performance of the transistor. They plan to correct the deficiency in the next couple of years. After that, engineers will begin preparations for the launch of the product on the market.

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