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Filtering technique reduces power consumption in gadgets

Posted: 29 Sep 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:filter? electron? power consumption?

A team of researchers from the University of Texas has developed a technology that taps into the power of a single electron to control energy consumption at the core of electronic systemstransistors.

Power reduction at transistor-level is believed to be the first step towards the creation of wearable computers with self-contained power sources, or smartphones that do not easily drain their batteries even after a few hours of heavy use.

The researchers found that by adding a specific atomic thin film layer to a transistor, the layer acted as a filter for the energy that passed through it at room temperature. The signal that resulted from the device was six to seven times steeper than that of traditional devices. Steep devices use less voltage but still have a strong signal.

"The whole semiconductor industry is looking for steep devices because they are key to having small, powerful, mobile devices with many functions that operate quickly without spending a lot of battery power," said Dr Jiyoung Kim, professor of materials science and engineering in the Jonsson School and an author of the paper. "Our device is one solution to make this happen."

Tapping into the unique and subtle behaviour of a single electron is the most energy-efficient way to transmit signals in electronic devices. Since the signal is so small, it can be easily diluted by thermal noises at room temperature. To see this quantum signal, engineers and scientists who build electronic devices typically use external cooling techniques to compensate for the thermal energy in the electron environment. The filter created by the UT Dallas researchers is one route to effectively filter out the thermal noise.

Dr Kyeongjae "K.J." Cho, professor of materials science and engineering and physics and co-author of the paper, agreed that transistors made from this filtering technique could revolutionise the semiconductor industry.

"Having to cool the thermal spread in modern transistors limits how small consumer electronics can be made," said Cho, who used advanced modelling techniques to explain the lab phenomena. "We devised a technique to cool the electrons internallyallowing reduction in operating voltageso that we can create even smaller, more power-efficient devices."

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Kim (left) and Cho examine a wafer used to make transistors. The two created new technology that could reduce energy consumption in mobile devices and computers. Source: UT Dallas

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