Nanodevices could use quantized current to operate future electronics

Nov 26, 2007 By Lisa Zyga feature

For the past several decades, virtually all electronics devices have been based on the CMOS logic system, which uses semiconductors and transistors to form digital circuits. However, researchers today are investigating the use of novel materials and technologies to create superior circuitry, which would lead to smaller, faster and smarter computers, cell phones, and other devices.

Most recently, scientists Wancheng Zhang, Nan-Jian Wu, and Fuhua Yang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing have designed logic gates—a basic component of digital circuits—that use the quantization of electric current to perform operations. The recent development of two unique nanodevices has enabled scientists to control the flow of individual electrons, allowing the team to propose novel universal logic gates that are more compact than conventional logic gates.

“When talking about future digital circuits using nanodevices, researchers usually focus on their potentially high density and fast speed,” Zhang told PhysOrg.com. “The greatest significance of this work is that we show that the unique operating principles of novel nanodevices can be used to implement smarter logic circuits with very compact structures. Therefore, future nano-based-circuits can have advantages both in size and in circuit structure.”

In their study published in Nanotechnology, the researchers proposed two different designs for building “periodic-threshold threshold logic gates” (PTTGs).

In the first method, the researchers proposed using an electron waveguide—which is essentially a one-dimensional channel—to take advantage of the wave nature of the electron. Because the channel is narrower than a single electron, an electron wave can travel through the channel without scattering, in a discrete number of modes. By using two of these electron waveguides, and combining their current values, the logic gate could have an output consisting of the combined input currents.

In the second method, the scientists proposed a PTTG using a single-electron turnstile, a device that can accurately control the number of transferred electrons using a quantum effect called the Coulomb-blockade effect. This effect, which only exists in a tiny area about the size of a single electron particle, ensures that the number of electrons transferred by the turnstile is a quantized function of its voltage. By controlling the voltage, the researchers could theoretically determine the number of captured electrons, and use two single-electron turnstiles to transfer electrons to a storage node, with the difference of electrons between the two turnstiles determining the output signal.

Then, the researchers suggested how PTTGs made in either of these two ways could be used to create universal logic gates. Due to the flexible quantization characteristics of the current-quantization devices, a single PTTG could implement nearly all 256 three-input Boolean functions (the most common computing method in digital electronics). Also, two PTTGs put together could implement all 65,536 four-input Boolean functions.

“The quantized current devices have several quantization states that can be used to represent discrete logic states,” Zhang explained, “while conventional CMOS transistors have only two logic states: on and off. That's why the quantized current device can enable complicated and compact periodic-threshold threshold logic gates.”

The researchers also explained that the current-quantized logic gates could have several advantages over conventional logic gates. For one thing, they have both a simple and more universal circuit structure. Compared to the 40 transistors required by a conventional three-input logic gate, a PTTG would only require 10 equivalent devices. Further, the two current-quantized logic gates both have very small sizes, offering the potential for high density circuitry. Finally, due to their small size and low resistance, the new logic gates may also have a significant speed advantage.

“The key to achieving quantized current devices is small device geometry,” Zhang said. “Both the ballistic transport of electrons in electron waveguides and the Coulomb-blockade effect in the single-electron turnstile require small device geometry to overcome the thermal energy. With recent advances in fabrication, room-temperature operations of the electron waveguide and single-electron turnstile are possible.”

More information: Zhang, Wancheng, Wu, Nan-Jian, and Yang, Fuhua. “Compact universal logic gates realized using quantization of current in nanodevices.” Nanotechnology 18 (2007) 495201 (8pp).

Copyright 2007 PhysOrg.com.
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of PhysOrg.com.

Explore further: In-situ nanoindentation study of phase transformation in magnetic shape memory alloys

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A quantum logic gate between light and matter

Apr 10, 2014

Scientists at Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching, Germany, successfully process quantum information with a system comprising an optical photon and a trapped atom.

Bacterial 'FM radio' developed

Apr 09, 2014

Programming living cells offers the prospect of harnessing sophisticated biological machinery for transformative applications in energy, agriculture, water remediation and medicine. Inspired by engineering, researchers in ...

Domain walls in nanowires cleverly set in motion

Apr 08, 2014

Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have achieved a major breakthrough in the development of methods of information processing in nanomagnets. Using a new trick, they have been able to ...

Recommended for you

'Exotic' material is like a switch when super thin

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Ever-shrinking electronic devices could get down to atomic dimensions with the help of transition metal oxides, a class of materials that seems to have it all: superconductivity, magnetoresistance ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

vivcollins
2.7 / 5 (3) Nov 26, 2007
Probably one of the more important things I have read about this century, there is an elegance to the idea of wave logic that appeals to me.
OldICFart
1 / 5 (1) Nov 27, 2007
Most three-input CMOS gates can be constructed with 6 transistors, and at most 8. However, the new technology concept does sound interesting, since the devices in a CMOS structure are way bigger than the "size" of an electron.

More news stories

Easter morning delivery for space station

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.