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Tiny compound semiconductor transistor could challenge silicon's dominance
Date:12/10/2012

ays. But despite recent advances in treating the material to allow it to be formed into a transistor in a similar way to silicon, nobody has yet been able to produce devices small enough to be packed in ever-greater numbers into tomorrow's microchips.

Now del Alamo, Antoniadis and Lin have shown it is possible to build a nanometer-sized metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) the type most commonly used in logic applications such as microprocessors using the material. "We have shown that you can make extremely small indium gallium arsenide MOSFETs with excellent logic characteristics, which promises to take Moore's Law beyond the reach of silicon," del Alamo says.

Transistors consist of three electrodes: the gate, the source and the drain, with the gate controlling the flow of electrons between the other two. Since space in these tiny transistors is so tight, the three electrodes must be placed in extremely close proximity to each other, a level of precision that would be impossible for even sophisticated tools to achieve. Instead, the team allows the gate to "self-align" itself between the other two electrodes.

The researchers first grow a thin layer of the material using molecular beam epitaxy, a process widely used in the semiconductor industry in which evaporated atoms of indium, gallium and arsenic react with each other within a vacuum to form a single-crystal compound. The team then deposits a layer of molybdenum as the source and drain contact metal. They then "draw" an extremely fine pattern onto this substrate using a focused beam of electrons another well-established fabrication technique known as electron beam lithography.

Unwanted areas of material are then etched away and the gate oxide is deposited onto the tiny gap. Finally, evaporated molybdenum is fired at the surface, where it forms the gate, tightly squeezed between the two other electrodes, del Alamo says. "Through a combination of etching
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Contact: Caroline McCall
cmccall5@mit.edu
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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