Electronics advance moves closer to a world beyond silicon

September 4, 2013
This MIIM diode has a layer of metals at each side and two insulators in between, an important step toward a future of high speed electronics not limited by the use of silicon. Credit: Oregon State University

(Phys.org) —Researchers in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University have made a significant advance in the function of metal-insulator-metal, or MIM diodes, a technology premised on the assumption that the speed of electrons moving through silicon is simply too slow.

For the extraordinary speed envisioned in some future , these innovative diodes solve problems that would not be possible with silicon-based materials as a limiting factor.

The new diodes consist of a "sandwich" of two metals, with two insulators in between, to form "MIIM" devices. This allows an electron not so much to move through materials as to tunnel through insulators and appear almost instantaneously on the other side. It's a fundamentally different approach to electronics.

The newest findings, published in Applied Physics Letters, have shown that the addition of a second can enable "step tunneling," a situation in which an electron may tunnel through only one of the insulators instead of both. This in turn allows of diode asymmetry, non-linearity, and rectification at lower voltages.

"This approach enables us to enhance device operation by creating an additional asymmetry in the ," said John F. Conley, Jr., a professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "It gives us another way to engineer and moves us closer to the real applications that should be possible with this technology."

OSU scientists and engineers, who only three years ago announced the creation of the first successful, high-performance MIM diode, are in this developing field. Conventional electronics based on silicon materials are fast and inexpensive, but are reaching the top speeds possible using those materials. Alternatives are being sought.

More sophisticated microelectronic products could be possible with the MIIM diodes – not only improved liquid crystal displays, cell phones and TVs, but such things as extremely high-speed computers that don't depend on transistors, or "energy harvesting" of infrared solar energy, a way to produce energy from the Earth as it cools during the night.

MIIM diodes could be produced on a huge scale at low cost, from inexpensive and environmentally benign materials. New companies, industries and high-tech jobs may ultimately emerge from advances in this field, OSU researchers say.

Explore further: Advance could change modern electronics: High-performance 'metal-insulator-metal' diode created

Related Stories

Engineers show feasibility of superfast materials

February 13, 2013

(Phys.org)—University of Utah engineers demonstrated it is feasible to build the first organic materials that conduct electricity on their edges, but act as an insulator inside. These materials, called organic topological ...

Novel topological crystalline insulator shows mass appeal

August 29, 2013

Disrupting the symmetrical structure of a solid-state topological crystalline insulator creates mass in previously mass-less electrons and imparts an unexpected level of control in this nascent class of materials, an international ...

Recommended for you

Test racetrack dipole magnet produces record 16 tesla field

November 30, 2015

A new world record has been broken by the CERN magnet group when their racetrack test magnet produced a 16.2 tesla (16.2T) peak field – nearly twice that produced by the current LHC dipoles and the highest ever for a dipole ...

Turbulence in bacterial cultures

November 30, 2015

Turbulent flows surround us, from complex cloud formations to rapidly flowing rivers. Populations of motile bacteria in liquid media can also exhibit patterns of collective motion that resemble turbulent flows, provided the ...

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...


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.