The SketchSETwhich is the first single-electron transistor made entirely of oxide-based materialsconsists of an island formation that can house up to two electrons. The number of electrons on the islandwhich can be only zero, one, or tworesults in distinct conductive properties. Wires extending from the transistor carry additional electrons across the island.
One virtue of a single-electron transistor is its extreme sensitivity to an electric charge, Levy explained. Another property of these oxide materials is ferroelectricity, which allows the transistor to act as a solid-state memory. The ferroelectric state can, in the absence of external power, control the number of electrons on the island, which in turn can be used to represent the 1 or 0 state of a memory element. A computer memory based on this property would be able to retain information even when the processor itself is powered down, Levy said. The ferroelectric state also is expected to be sensitive to small pressure changes at nanometer scales, making this device potentially useful as a nanoscale charge and force sensor.
Since August 2010, Levy has led a $7.5 million, multi-institutional project to construct a semiconductor with properties similar to SketchSET, he said. Funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research's Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI) program, the five-year effort is intended to overcome some of the most significant challenges related to the development of quantum information technology. Levy works on that project with researchers from Cornell, Stanford, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Michigan, and UW-Madison.
|Contact: Morgan Kelly|
University of Pittsburgh