June 8, 2023


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A new alternative to silicone. What will transistors look like in the future?

And that’s exactly what happened to the researchers at Forschungszentrum Jülich and their germanium-tin transistor. One of the main advantages of this solution, as we can read in the pages communication Engineeringis a higher transfer rate for charge carriers compared to silicon or germanium transistors.

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This, in turn, leads to lower operating voltages, and the proposed solution can be used, for example, for low-power, high-efficiency integrated circuits. There is even talk of building quantum computers using such a solution, although in this case those are mostly guesses.

Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. The problem is that circles have gotten smaller over the years, and Moore’s Law doesn’t necessarily seem to reflect today’s reality. In short, the development we are witnessing now is unlikely to continue for a long time, and at some point it may come to a complete standstill.

We are now at a stage where structures are only 2 to 3 nanometers in size. This is roughly equal to the diameter of 10 atoms, which brings us to our limit. There is not much that can be reduced. […] The idea is to find a material that has more favorable electronic properties and can be used to achieve the same performance with larger structures.
explains one of the authors, Ching Tai Chow

While germanium itself was already used in this context, the scientists behind the new project wanted to improve the electronic properties of the transistor, so they also used tin atoms. During the tests, it turned out that this element has an electron mobility that is about 2.5 times higher than that of a transistor made of pure germanium.

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Among the advantages of the proposed solution, it is definitely worth noting the fact that the new transistor can be made according to the CMOS standard used to create integrated circuits. Moreover, germanium and tin transistors can be directly integrated into conventional silicon wafers using existing production lines. Among the potential applications in the future are projects of “normal” computers and quantum devices. A new type of transistor could work well at the lower temperatures needed for quantum computers to function properly.