First Gallium-Based FinFETs

Purdue researchers take compound semiconductors into the third dimension

4 min read
First Gallium-Based FinFETs

23 November 2009—Silicon researchers envision that future generations of transistors will evolve from the flat structures they are now to three-dimensional devices called FinFETs, where two or more narrow fins are the critical features. Now research into better-performing—but more-expensive—compound semiconductors has caught up. Engineers at Purdue University’s Birck Nanotechnology Center have created the first FinFETs, or fin-shaped field-effect transistors, made of a compound semiconductor called indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs). If such devices can be integrated into complex circuits, they could improve cellphone communication and make for chips that compute faster.

Compound semiconductors, the stuff of high-frequency circuits and optoelectronics, are among the leading contenders to replace silicon in electronic circuits when Moore’s Law runs out of steam. They make transistors that switch faster and more efficiently, which could solve some of the big problems facing future generations of silicon integrated circuits. But they have even more trouble than silicon when shrunk to the tiny sizes of today’s transistors: Mainly, they leak.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

Keep Reading ↓Show less