New Old Transistor

If you’ve been complaining that your brand new laptop still doesn’t have the processing speed you need, some old science is coming to the rescue. As described in Scientific American, a transistor design that was first patented in 1925 might be the key to putting even more circuitry on computer chips.

Standard transistors, based on a design from the 1940’s, allow current along a sandwich-like semi-conductor strip depending on whether an electron “gate” in the strip is open or closed: the “on” or “off” states computing depends on. But the dividers between the sandwich layers—the junctions—are becoming too hard to define at increasingly smaller sizes. A design by Austrian physicist Julius Lilienfeld doesn’t require sandwiched strips. Just a single nanorod with a gate in the middle opened and closed by an electric field that deprives the gate section of its electrons to cut off current flow. Physicists at the Tyndall National Institute in Ireland have built one of these, and claim not only that it can be made with existing technology, but also requires less voltage, producing less heat and allowing faster processing speed.

Moore’s Law claims that the number of transistors a computer chip can hold (translate that into amount of computing power) doubles every two years. Lately that progress rate has been stalling. This new/old transistor design could get Moore’s Law back on track.

Molar-size supercomputers anyone?