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  • 11.23.10

Indium Valley: Researchers Find More Efficient Alternative to Silicon

Silicon Valley might consider changing its name if research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California Berkeley pans out. They’ve figured out how to bypass the operating capacity of silicon chips with indium arsenide.

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.

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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 It might not be worth investing heavily in a material that will become outdated in 10 years.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.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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