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New material points to smaller transistors

Dec. 10, 2012 at 8:33 PM   |   Comments

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Silicon semiconductors' reign as the king of microchips for computers and smart devices could be numbered, U.S. researchers say.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say a rival to silicon, indium gallium arsenide, has led to the creation of the smallest transistor ever built.

Despite being just 22 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in length the transistor performs well and is a potential candidate to replace silicon in computing devices, an MIT release reported Monday.

Shrinking the size of transistors allows increasing numbers of them to be squeezed onto microchips.

"The more transistors you can pack on a chip, the more powerful the chip is going to be, and the more functions the chip is going to perform," Jesus del Alamo of MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science said.

Researchers have been actively investigating alternatives to silicon -- like indium gallium arsenide -- that could potentially operate as transistors at increasingly smaller scales.

The MIT researchers have shown it is possible to build a type of transistor most commonly used in computer applications such as microprocessors using the material.

"We have shown that you can make extremely small indium gallium arsenide MOSFETs with excellent logic characteristics, which promises to take Moore's Law beyond the reach of silicon," del Alamo says.

Moore's Law -- the prediction by Intel founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on microchips will double every two years -- had almost reached its limits using silicon technology, researchers said.

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