Ever shrinking transistors are the key to faster and more efficient computer processing. Since the 1970s, advancements in electronics have largely been driven by the steady pace with which these tiny components have grown simultaneously smaller and more powerful—right down to their current dimensions on the nanometer scale. But recent years have seen this progress plateau, as researchers grapple with whether transistors may have finally hit their size limit. High among the list of hurdles standing in the way of further miniaturization: problems caused by “leakage current.”
Leakage current results when the gap between two metal electrodes narrows to the point that electrons are no longer contained by their barriers, a phenomenon known as quantum mechanical tunnelling. As the gap continues to decrease, this tunnelling conduction increases at an exponentially higher rate, rendering further miniaturization extremely challenging. Scientific consensus has long held that vacuum barriers represent the most effective means to curtail tunnelling, making them the best overall option for insulating transistors. However, even vacuum barriers can allow for some leakage due to quantum tunnelling.
In a highly interdisciplinary collaboration, researchers across Columbia Engineering, Columbia University Department of Chemistry, Shanghai Normal University, and the University of Copenhagen have upended conventional wisdom, synthesizing the first molecule capable of insulating at the nanometer scale more effectively than a vacuum barrier. Their findings are published online today in Nature.
“We’ve reached the point where it’s critical for researchers to develop creative solutions for redesigning insulators. Our molecular strategy represents a new design principle for classic devices, with the potential to support continued miniaturization in the near term,” said Columbia Engineering physicist and co-author Latha Venkataraman, who heads the lab where researcher Haixing Li conducted the project’s experimental work. Molecular synthesis was carried out in the Colin Nuckolls Lab at Columbia’s Department of Chemistry, in partnership with Shengxiong Xiao at Shanghai Normal University.
Image Credit: Haixing Li/Columbia Engineering
News This Week
Guided by artificial intelligence and powered by a robotic platform, a system developed by MIT researchers moves a step closer to automating the production of small molecules that could be used in medicine, solar [...]
Thin, flexible fibers made of carbon nanotubes have now proven able to bridge damaged heart tissues and deliver the electrical signals needed to keep those hearts beating. Scientists at Texas Heart Institute (THI) report they have [...]
The lab of Cheryl Kerfeld at Michigan State University has created a synthetic nano-sized factory, based on natural ones found in bacteria. This research could someday lead to new medical, industrial or bioenergy [...]
Melanoma in skin biopsy with H&E stain — this case may represent superficial spreading melanoma. Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0 Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a novel nano-vaccine for melanoma, the most aggressive [...]
Modern light microscopic techniques provide extremely detailed insights into organs, but the terabytes of data they produce are usually nearly impossible to process. New software, developed by a team led by MDC scientist Dr. [...]
It has long been known that gold can be used to do things that philosophers have never even dreamed of. The Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Cracow has [...]