Indium Valley: Researchers Find More Efficient Alternative to Silicon

Ali Javey

Should Silicon Valley consider changing its name to Indium Arsenide Valley? It might, if research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California Berkeley pans out. Researchers from the two institutions have reportedly figured out how to bypass the operating capacity of silicon chips, which are hindered by heat accumulation and quantum mechanical issues, with indium arsenide.

The research team has figured out how to grow a crystalline layer of indium arsenide onto a gallium antimonide wafer. The indium arsenide can then be transferred onto a silicon dioxide substrate. The result: a semiconductor that offers a number of advantages compared to silicon, including better electron mobility and velocity, which makes it ideal for high-speed, low-power electronic devices.

"The devices we subsequently fabricated were shown to operate near the projected performance limits of III-V devices [like indium arsenide] with minimal leakage current," said Ali Javey, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley, in a statement. "Our devices also exhibited superior performance in terms of current density and transconductance as compared to silicon transistors of similar dimensions."

Not everyone is convinced that indium arsenide will be the next hot semiconductor. ABC Science says that the operating capacity of indium arsenide chips will be reached just a decade down the line. It might not be worth investing heavily in a material that will become outdated in 10 years. That at least gives us time, though, to find an even slimmer and more efficient replacement.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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2 Comments

  • Andrey

    Great article.  I'd mention that there are now a couple options for investing in indium metal.  A California company "preciousmetalpurchase" sells and buys physical metal with low commissions, and there is a Canadian company smg-indium that sells paper shares in a depository.