Return of the vacuum tube

May 18, 2012

Vacuum tubes have been retro for decades. They almost completely disappeared from the electronics scene when consumers exchanged their old cathode ray tube monitors for flat screen TVs. Their replacement – the semiconductor – is generally the cheaper, lighter, more efficient, and easier to manufacture of the two technologies. But vacuum tubes are more robust in high-radiation environments such as outer space. And since electrons travel faster in a vacuum than through a semiconductor, vacuum tubes are an intrinsically better medium for electricity.

An international team of researchers from NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and the National Nanofab Center in Korea have combined the best traits of both technologies by making a tiny version of vacuum tubes that could be incorporated into circuits. Their prototype, a vacuum channel transistor, is just 150 nanometers long and was made using conventional semiconductor fabrication methods. Its small size allows it to operate at fewer than 10 volts, much less than a retro vacuum tube requires; with further work, the device could be made to use about 1 volt, which would make it competitive with modern semiconductor technology.

In a paper accepted to the American Institute of Physics' (AIP) journal Applied Physics Letters, the authors write that such a transistor could be useful for applications in hazardous chemical sensing, noninvasive medical diagnostics, and high-speed telecommunications, as well as in so-called "extreme environment" applications for military and space.

Explore further: Finding faster-than-light particles by weighing them

More information: "Vacuum nanoelectronics: back to the future? – gate insulated nanoscale vacuum channel transistor," is accepted to Applied Physics Letters.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Digital quantum batteries inspired by plasma TVs

Jan 28, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Plasma TVs are notorious for their excessive use of electricity, but the same principle used to produce high definition pictures in the TVs could result in the development of a new type of ...

Image: NASA's world's largest vacuum chamber

Feb 03, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The world's largest vacuum chamber resides at the NASA Glenn Research Center's Space Power Facility, located at Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio.

Recommended for you

Finding faster-than-light particles by weighing them

Dec 26, 2014

In a new paper accepted by the journal Astroparticle Physics, Robert Ehrlich, a recently retired physicist from George Mason University, claims that the neutrino is very likely a tachyon or faster-than-light par ...

Controlling core switching in Pac-man disks

Dec 24, 2014

Magnetic vortices in thin films can encode information in the perpendicular magnetization pointing up or down relative to the vortex core. These binary states could be useful for non-volatile data storage ...

Atoms queue up for quantum computer networks

Dec 24, 2014

In order to develop future quantum computer networks, it is necessary to hold a known number of atoms and read them without them disappearing. To do this, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute have developed ...

New video supports radiation dosimetry audits

Dec 23, 2014

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), working with the National Radiotherapy Trials Quality Assurance Group, has produced a video guideĀ to support physicists participating in radiation dosimetry audits.

Acoustic tweezers manipulate cell-to-cell contact

Dec 22, 2014

Sound waves can precisely position groups of cells for study without the danger of changing or damaging the cells, according to a team of Penn State researchers who are using surface acoustic waves to manipulate ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

alfie_null
not rated yet May 19, 2012
Presumably using some sort of cold cathode technology? No cheery orange glow from your computer when you turn it on.
I wonder what is the lifetime of these devices? Old technology vacuum tubes operate for thousands of hours but eventually wear out.
vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2012
Welcome. I can suggest a few solutions.
unknownorgin
not rated yet May 24, 2012
Vacuum tubes have not disappeared they just have different jobs now. Broadcast radio transmitters have huge vacuum tube output stages and the magnetron in your microwave oven is a vacuum tube because solid state devices still can not handle the high voltage and frequencys used.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.