Researchers have developed a new way to combine two-dimensional electron gases with gallium arsenide that, they claim, will pave the way for new computing devices.
Insulating oxides are a type of oxygen that contain compounds, but they aren't capable of conducting electricity.
However, scientists believe that these compounds can "sometimes form conductive interfaces when they're layered together precisely".
Doing this is typically a challenge, but researchers from Yale University have now found a way to grow a 2DEG system on gallium arsenide, which is a semiconductor that absorbs and emits light.
This is a groundbreaking development and could open the door to new electronic devices that can interact with light, such as transistors, superconducting switches and gas sensors.
Lior Kornblum, who now works at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, described the research, which has been written up in the Journal of Applied Physics. "I see this as a building block for oxide electronics," said Kornblum.
Scientists first found Oxide 2DEGs in 2004 after discovering that it's possible to combine two layers of insulating oxides. This can create electrons that behave in a similar way to gas or water near the surface.
At the time, it was considered ground-breaking that electrons could work between oxides and be used to transport important information. Researchers have also explored the relationship 2DEGs have with semiconductors.
But oxide-based 2DEGs possess higher electron densities, so they are "promising candidates for some electronic applications". They also have quantum properties.
Mass producing oxide 2DEGs, however, isn't an easy task. But by growing oxides using "large, commercially available semiconductor wafers", this could change.
Kornblum claims that by "enabling the oxide electrons to interact with the electrons in the semiconductor", it's possible to generate "new functionality and more types of devices".
In the past, the Yale researchers have grown oxide 2DEGs with silicon wafers. But they've gone one step further by growing them on gallium arsenide semiconductors, which they say is even more challenging.
"The ability to couple or to integrate these interesting oxide two-dimensional electron gases with gallium arsenide opens the way to devices that could benefit from the electrical and optical properties of the semiconductor," Kornblum said. "This is a gateway material for other members of this family of semiconductors."
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