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Speedy Diodes

December 2, 2010

A new processor technology may potentially supplant the silicon chip.


Taking electronics up a notch…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Pretty soon, silicon-based transistors will be as good as they’ll ever get. That’s because there’s a limit to how fast electrons can move through them. Now, Oregon State University chemist Doug Keszler and his colleagues have refined an alternative that’s been kicked around for decades. It consists of two electrodes separated by a very thin layer of insulation, which electrons tunnel right through.

DOUG KESZLER (Oregon State University):
So this enables almost instantaneous transfer of the electrons between the electrodes, which can transfer into very high speed electronics.

In their version, that tunneling can be controlled much better than before. That’s because the electrodes are made from an ultra-smooth metal that creates a uniform electric field. They hope that the technology could take electronics to presently unthinkable speeds. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.