Bell Laboratories has created the world's smallest transistor, a breakthrough that could dramatically boost the price/performance and lower the power consumption of future computers.
The device is four times smaller and five times faster than those used in current microprocessors and other chips, so that many times more transistors could be fitted on a chip in future. This would pave the way for smaller, more powerful computers using less power, particularly significant for manufacturers of sub-notebooks and handheld computers, mobile phones and communications devices.
Mark Pinto, chief technology officer at the Microelectronics group of Bell Labs' parent Lucent, also predicted that the transistors would enable a new breed of portable multimedia terminals that could run for weeks on one battery.
He said the development would create a new age of 'nano-electronics' to succeed the era of microelectronics. That in turn was set in motion when Bell Labs invented the original transistor 50 years ago, he pointed out.
The first devices to use the new nanotransistor will be hybrid designs that also include conventional transistors, and Pinto does not expect to see the new miniature elements becoming standard in mainstream semiconductors for at least a decade. Bell Labs is now the research and development arm of Lucent, which was spun off from AT&T earlier this year.
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