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Researchers develop nanoscale transistors without silicon

Posted: 26 Jun 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:transistors? silicon? BNNT? quantum dot?

With the trend of electronic devices getting smaller with each generation, the industry may soon face a dead-end in terms on miniaturisation. With this issue at hand, a team of scientists at Michigan Technological University (MTU) has come up with a transistor that does away with the limitations of semiconductors.

"At the rate the current technology is progressing, in 10 or 20 years, they [transistors based on semiconductors] won't be able to get any smaller," said physicist Yoke Khin Yap of MTU. "Also, semiconductors have another disadvantage: they waste a lot of energy in the form of heat."

Quantum-tunnelling device

Figure 1: Electrons flash across a series of gold quantum dots on boron nitride nanotubes.

Back in 2007, Yap wanted to try something different that might open the door to a new age of electronics.

"The idea was to make a transistor using a nanoscale insulator with nanoscale metals on top," he said. "In principle, you could get a piece of plastic and spread a handful of metal powders on top to make the devices, if you do it right. But we were trying to create it in nanoscale, so we chose a nanoscale insulator, boron nitride nanotubes, or BNNTs for the substrate."

Yap's team had figured out how to make virtual carpets of BNNTs, which happen to be insulators and thus highly resistant to electrical charge. Using lasers, the team then placed quantum dots (QDs) of gold as small as 3nm across on the tops of the BNNTs, forming QDs-BNNTs. BNNTs are the perfect substrates for these quantum dots due to their small, controllable, and uniform diameters, as well as their insulating nature. BNNTs confine the size of the dots that can be deposited.

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