Internal Combustion Used to Make Thin-Film Transistors

Combustible mix of metal and oxygen could be path to flexible electronics

3 min read

18 April 2011—A team of scientists has developed chemical solutions that use their own internal heat to fuse metal and oxygen atoms and form semiconducting films at low temperatures. This method could pave the way for cheaper next-generation thin-film and flexible electronics. The work, which describes the results for films of several different compositions, appeared on Sunday in the journal Nature Materials.

The thin-film electronics behind today’s flat-panel displays are made of chaotically structured, or amorphous, silicon. But amorphous silicon is reaching its performance limits, and a new class of materials—amorphous oxides— will soon be making its commercial debut. Electrons in amorphous oxides can zoom through the material dozens of times as fast as they do in amorphous silicon, making for faster electronics. And unlike amorphous silicon, oxides carry current the same way in every direction, making them better candidates for bendable electronics  like flexible solar arrays and roll-up displays.

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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.

Avicena

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.

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