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Germanium Can Take Transistors Where Silicon Can’t

The material inside the first transistors could have a new life at the cutting edge

11 min read
As a proof of concept, the author and his team used germanium-on-insulator wafers to construct inverters containing first planar transistors and then FinFETs.
Germanium Returns: Germanium was an early transistor material. Now its charge-carrying abilities and advanced fabrication technology make it an attractive material for future chips. As a proof of concept, the author and his team used germanium-on-insulator wafers to construct inverters containing first planar transistors and then FinFETs (shown above).
Image: Heng Wu/Purdue University

Nearly 70 years ago, two physicists at Bell Telephone Laboratories—John Bardeen and Walter Brattain—pressed two thin gold contacts into a slab of germanium and made a third contact on the bottom of the slab. The flow of current through this configuration could be used to turn a small signal into a larger one. The result was the first transistor—the amplifier and switch that was, arguably, the greatest invention of the 20th century. Thanks to Moore’s Law, the transistor has delivered computers far beyond anything thought possible in the 1950s.

Despite germanium’s starring role in the transistor’s early history, it was soon supplanted by silicon. But now, remarkably, the material is poised for a comeback. The world’s leading-edge chipmakers are contemplating a change to the component at the very heart of the transistor—the current-carrying channel. The idea is to replace the silicon there with a material that can move current at greater rates. Building transistors with such channels could help engineers continue to make faster and more energy-efficient circuits, which would mean better computers, smartphones, and countless other gadgets for years to come.

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Colorful chip with wires coming out of it surrounded by large metal plates.

Engineers probe the performance of noisy bits that, when working together, may solve some problems better than quantum computers.

Lang Zeng/Beihang University

A large universal quantum computer is still an engineering dream, but machines designed to leverage quantum effects to solve specific classes of problems—such as D-wave’s computers—are alive and well. But an unlikely rival could challenge these specialized machines: computers built from purposely noisy parts.

This week at the IEEE International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM 2022), engineers unveiled several advances that bring a large-scale probabilistic computer closer to reality than ever before.

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How to Stake Electronic Components Using Adhesives

Staking provides extra mechanical support for various electronic parts

2 min read
Adhesive staking of DIP component on a circuit board using Master Bond EP17HTDA-1.

The main use for adhesive staking is to provide extra mechanical support for electronic components and other parts that may be damaged due to vibration, shock, or handling.

Master Bond

This is a sponsored article brought to you by Master Bond.

Sensitive electronic components and other parts that may be damaged due to vibration, shock, or handling can often benefit from adhesive staking. Staking provides additional mechanical reinforcement to these delicate pieces.

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