Researchers are looking into transparent conductive oxides as a replacement for silicon semiconductor material.
Taking place at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio, US, the study looks into new alternatives to silicon due to it - apparently - "facing limitations" in scalability for power applications.
"The technologies in use today are already scaled close to their limits for the operating voltage desired in many applications. They are limited by their critical electric field strength," said Gregg Jessen, principal electronics engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Jessen and his fellow researchers found that in order to push semiconductor technology to its full potential, it requires smaller designs at higher energy density.
Enter transparent conductive oxides - one conductive oxide in particular: Ga2O3, or gallium oxide. This material offers an incredibly large bandgap and therefore has unique properties that enable it to function well in power switching.
According to the researcher's study, published in Applied Physics Letters, they made a case for producing micro-electronics using gallium oxide, focusing on field-effect transistors (FETs), or devices that could greatly benefit from gallium oxide's large critical electrical field strength.
Jessen said this could enable the design of FETs with smaller geometries and aggressive doping profiles that would destroy any other FET material.
"The next application for gallium oxide will be unipolar FETs for power supplies," he said. "Critical field strength is the key metric here, and it results in superior energy density capabilities. The critical field strength of gallium oxide is more than 20 times that of silicon and more than twice that of silicon carbide and gallium nitride."
Gallium oxide is flexible for various applications is due to its broad range of possible conductivities, from highly conductive to very insulating, and high-breakdown-voltage capabilities due to its electric field strength.
It therefore can be scaled to an extreme degree so large-area gallium oxide wafers can also be grown from the melt, lowering manufacturing costs.
The researchers' study suggests that unipolar Ga2O3 will become a popular method, with such devices becoming more widely used in the future. It also details Ga2O3 applications in different types of FETs and how the material can be of service in high-voltage, high-power and power-switching applications.
"From a research perspective, gallium oxide is really exciting," Jessen said. "We are just beginning to understand the full potential of these devices for several applications, and it's a great time to be involved in the field."
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