World’s Smallest Transistor Is Just One Nanometer

In improving computer technology, the transistor size becomes a crucial part of the process. The smaller the transistor, the more powerful the computer's computing power will be. Processors can also be made faster and more efficient. So a team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory decided to do just that. They made a new transistor that is just 1 nanometer in size. It is probably the smallest transistor in the world right now, which is even 50,000 smaller than a strand of human hair.

Following Moore's Law

The computer industry has always been governed by Moore's Law. It states that the number of transistors double every two years for any semiconductor circuit. This can only be possible if transistors can be made smaller and placed into the same circuit with double their original number. However, Moore's Law seems to be against the laws of physics. This is because the original material that makes up transistors, silicon, has a big setback when it comes to nanotechnology - making it too small will make any computing device without an off state.

From silicon to something new

Silicon as a transistor has its limits. When a silicon transistor becomes too small, it leaks energy so the way the switch should move becomes inefficient. Instead of an on-and-off state, a too-small silicon transistor will always have an on-state.

It would be impossible to make a 1-nanometer gate using silicon but Ali Javey, together with his colleagues, used an alternative. They actually made a functional 1-noanometer transistor using molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), an engine lubricant, that served as the semiconductor and carbon nanotubes as the gates to control electron flow.

Right now, Javey's work with his Berkeley Lab team is still a proof of concept. Their research is still in the very early stages and there is much challenge in producing 1nm on a large scale. Another work that will require much innovation in the future.

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