A new type of nanochip developed by Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology researchers has the potential to “revolutionise” electronics as we know it.
The team of researchers has developed a “promising” proof-of-concept for a new type of transistor, the device that acts as the building block for all electronics that we use every day.
While traditional transistors work by sending electrical currents through silicon, the RMIT team has successful produced a transistor that sends electrons through narrow air gaps instead, making them quicker and reducing the amount of heat produced.
The new research, which was published in material sciences journal Nano Letters this week, could help computer chips continue to double in power every two years, in line with Moore’s Law.
Lead author Shruti Nirantar said the new device has the potential to “revolutionise” the electronics we all use as part of everyday life.
“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,” Nirantar said.
“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.”
“This technology simply takes a different pathway to the miniaturisation of a transistor in an effort to uphold Moore’s Law for several more decades.”
The new technology effectively overcomes one of the major flaws with the current transistors, research team leader Sharath Siriam said.
“Imagine walking on a densely crowded street in an effort to get from Point A to B,” Siriam said. “The crowd slows your progress and drains your energy. Travelling in vacuum on the other hand is like an empty highway where you can drive faster with higher energy efficiency.”
Along with everyday electronics like computers and phones, the technology could also be applied in space, and could be used for the steering and positioning of nano-satellites, Siriam said.
“This is a step towards an exciting technology which aims to create something out of nothing to significantly increased the speed of electronics and maintain pace of rapid technological progress,” he said.
The nanochips work was undertaken at RMIT’s MicroNano Research Facility. The facility “brings together diverse and high quality multidisciplinary micro and nano-technology into a single hub”.
The 1000sqm facility has nine labs which provide for the “design, modelling, fabrication, packaging and characterisation of micro and nano-scale devices”.
Research in the lab has the potential to transform healthcare, computing, telecommunications and environmental protection through new technologies like wearable electronics and more effective drug delivery.