Exotic Transistors With Silicon Credentials

Foundry processes turbocharge large silicon wafers with indium gallium arsenide

3 min read

8 December 2010—Slashing transistor sizes drove the manufacture of ever-faster, lower-cost silicon chips during the last few decades of the 20th century. But more recently, miniaturization has gone hand in hand with incorporating a host of increasingly exotic materials.

The biggest change might be the addition of III-Vs, compounds that combine elements from group III of the periodic table, such as indium and gallium, with those from group V, such as phosphorus and arsenic. Transistor developers have been interested in these materials since the 1960s, because they move electrons around far faster than silicon can. Over the past decade, researchers have made steps toward using silicon and III-Vs to make hybrid circuits. However, nobody has ever made III-V transistors on large wafers that silicon foundries could process into minuscule devices with their state-of-the-art tools—until now.

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Six men and a woman smiling.

The luminaries who dared predict the future of the transistor for IEEE Spectrum include: [clockwise from left] Gabriel Loh, Sri Samavedam, Sayeef Salahuddin, Richard Schultz, Suman Datta, Tsu-Jae King Liu, and H.-S. Philip Wong.

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The 100th anniversary of the invention of the transistor will happen in 2047. What will transistors be like then? Will they even be the critical computing element they are today? IEEE Spectrum asked experts from around the world for their predictions.

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