Transistors are utilized in almost every piece of modern technology, including in your cell phone, car, computer, and refrigerator. The problem that transistors are facing today, though, are that they are not compact enough to fit inside of every device we wish. Hopes are high though, as an innovative kind of light-based transistor may be the solution to this problem.
“At its most straightforward, a transistor—or field effect transistor, to give the microscopic device found in all your electronics its proper name—is just a tiny switch. It has three terminals: a source, a drain, and a gate,” explained Jamie Condliffe at Gizmodo.com. “By varying the voltage (or the field) at the gate, it’s possible to control the current that flows from the source to the drain. Simple. Throw enough together, and you can create complex circuits to carry out logical operations—like a computer chip.”
The current challenge is producing transistors which are small enough, yet still possess a high level of reliability. Modern day transistors already measure in at nanometers, which are often comprised of ultra-thin layers of scattered silicon along with various other atoms in order to enhance their switching abilities. The smaller transistors get though, the more difficult it becomes to control how the atoms are added, creating for an unpredictable switch. This creates problems when you want something to operate reliably. Good news is that a team of researchers in Charlotte from the University of North Carolina has recently developed an innovative type of transistor which is capable of controlling the flowing current with light. This technology could be thought of as a ‘smart microscopic wire.’
“When it’s illuminated it allows electrons to flow, when it’s dark nothing passes through. While that alone may not sound too useful, the team points out that the devices can be made smaller than field effect transistors because they don’t require doping in the same way,” Condliffe said. “In turn, that should allow more to be squeezed into the same space, allowing speeds to increase in a way that satisfies our thirst.”
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