IBM has unveiled a new type of transistor that could lead to major improvements in speed, function and power consumption in semiconductors.
The device, called a 'double-gate' transistor, can carry twice the electrical current, operate at up to twice the speed and be reduced in size well below today's conventional transistors.
The research was presented today [4 December] at the International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in Washington DC.
The opportunity for further miniaturisation is important, as the dimensions of the traditional transistor are reaching the limits imposed by the laws of physics, threatening to slow the gains in performance that are required for high-speed communications, information systems and consumer electronics.
IBM said it has overcome a number of challenges that have held back the development of experimental double-gate transistors, the theory of which is currently being researched in many different labs throughout the world.
IBM hopes that its findings will now see double-gate transistors take a significant step forward from this embryonic stage towards full-scale production.
Improved transistors, such as the double-gate, will be needed in the next ten years when they shrink so small that it becomes difficult to shut them off completely.
The transistor, a type of on/off switch, is the major component of a processor, whose performance depends largely on the ability of its millions of transistors to switch on and off quickly and completely, and to require the least amount of energy to do so.
Within a transistor, an element called a 'gate' controls the electrical flow through the transistor. However, as transistors continue to shrink, it becomes more difficult for a single gate to effectively control switching. In a double-gate transistor, two gates surround the channel, doubling control of the current and enabling smaller, faster and lower-power circuits.
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