Transistor Made to Run on Protons

Squid shell is the secret ingredient in a device that modulates a proton current

3 min read

21 September 2011—It turns out the transistor has a positive side. A team at the University of Washington, in Seattle, has created the first solid-state transistor that controls the flow of protons instead of electrons. The device could help pave the way for gadgets that can interface at a molecular level with living systems, since biology commonly employs protons and ions to perform work and transmit information.

Unlike the lightweight electron, which is easily knocked off atoms and can flow freely through a wide variety of metals and semiconductors, the proton has proved far more difficult to harness. Researchers interested in creating a device that can modulate the flow of protons or heavier ions typically rely on water, creating microfluidic channels where they can manipulate dissolved ions.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

1 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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