According to the engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) who discovered the problem, it will soon stand in the way of creating more efficient, lower-powered devices like cell phones and pacemakers unless we solve it.
While exploring transistor behavior, the team found evidence that a widely accepted model explaining errors caused by electronic “noise” in the switches does not fit the facts.
A transistor must be made from highly purified materials to function; defects in these materials, like rocks in a stream, can divert the flow of electricity and cause the device to malfunction. This, in turn, makes it appear to fluctuate erratically between “on” and “off” states. For decades, the engineering community has largely accepted a theoretical model that identifies these defects and helps guide designers’ efforts to mitigate them.
Those days are ending, says NIST’s Jason Campbell, who has studied the fluctuations between on-off states in progressively smaller transistors. The theory, known as the elastic tunneling model, predicts that as transistors shrink, the fluctuations should correspondingly increase in frequency.
However, Campbell’s group at NIST has shown that even in nanometer-sized transistors, the fluctuation frequency remains the same. “This implies that the theory explaining the effect must be wrong,” Campbell said. “The model was a good working theory when transistors were large, but our observations clearly indicate that it’s incorrect at the smaller nanoscale regimes where industry is headed.”
The findings have particular implications for the low-power transistors currently in demand in the latest high-tech consumer technology, such as laptop computers. Low-power transistors are coveted because using them on chips would allow devices to run longer on less power—think cell phones that can run for a week on a single charge or pacemakers that operate for a decade without changing the battery. But Campbell says that the fluctuations his group observed grow even more pronounced as the power decreased. “This is a real bottleneck in our development of transistors for low-power applications,” he says. “We have to understand the problem before we can fix it—and troublingly, we don’t know what’s actually happening.”
Campbell, who credits NIST colleague K.P. Cheung for first noticing the possibility of trouble with the theory, presented some of the group’s findings at an industry conference on May 19, 2009, in Austin, Texas. Researchers from the University of Maryland College Park and Rutgers University also contributed to the study.
Chad Boutin | Newswise Science News
The world's most powerful acoustic tractor beam could pave the way for levitating humans
22.01.2018 | University of Bristol
Siberian scientists learned how to reduce harmful emissions from HPPs
22.01.2018 | Siberian Federal University
Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.
Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
23.01.2018 | Life Sciences
23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy