The Amazing Vanishing Transistor Act

Radical changes are in the offing for transistors as their dimensions shrink to a few tens of nanometers

11 min read

A decade from now you won't recognize a transistor even if it's walking toward you up the street, assuming you could see it, of course. The gate length--the marker for gauging how small that CMOS transistor is--will be roughly one-fifth the size of the smallest in production today, only 10 nm instead of today's 50 nm. To get to that size and ensure that the transistor still operates will require many changes:

  • To improve performance, silicon will be mixed with a semiconductor like germanium to produce a more spacious, strained crystalline structure that lets electric charge carriers move faster.
  • To reduce the leakage of current that drives up power consumption, gate oxides will be made of materials with more than eight times the dielectric constant (k) of today's silicon dioxide.
  • For better control of the transistor's on and off states, gates will be of metal, instead of polysilicon.
  • For better control and (again) to reduce power consumption, gates themselves will be doubled up so that two will do the job a single gate does now.

Among these techniques, strained silicon is the only one to have been commercialized so far. The rest are still at various stages of R and D. High-k dielectrics and metal gates could be next on the market as soon as they can be integrated into the manufacturing process. As for the double-gate devices, the jury is still out. Most researchers believe that they will be necessary when gate lengths shrink to 10 nm. But some think that they could be used earlier in portable applications, such as cellphones and handheld devices, to reduce the number of chips and power dissipation or to add capabilities.

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Video Friday: Drone in a Cage

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
A drone inside of a protective geometric cage flies through a dark rain

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

ICRA 2022: 23 May–27 May 2022, PHILADELPHIA
IEEE ARSO 2022: 28 May–30 May 2022, LONG BEACH, CALIF.
RSS 2022: 21 June–1 July 2022, NEW YORK CITY
ERF 2022: 28 June–30 June 2022, ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
RoboCup 2022: 11 July–17 July 2022, BANGKOK
IEEE CASE 2022: 20 August–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12 September–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL

Enjoy today’s videos!

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Remembering 1982 IEEE President Robert Larson

He was a supporter of several IEEE programs including Smart Village

3 min read
A photo of two men in suits.  One behind the other.

Robert Larson [left] with IEEE Life Fellow Eric Herz, who served as IEEE general manager and executive director.

IEEE History Center

Robert E. Larson, 1982 IEEE president, died on 10 March at the age of 83.

An active volunteer who held many high-level positions throughout the organization, Larson was the 1975–1976 president of the IEEE Control Systems Society and also served as IEEE Foundation president.

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Distinguishing weak signals from noise is a challenging task in data acquisition. In this webinar, we will explain challenges and explore solutions. Register now!
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