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Junctionless Transistor Could Simplify Chip Making 100

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the conjunction-junction-i-got-yer-function dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A novel transistor architecture has been developed by a team of researchers led by Jean-Pierre Colinge at Tyndall National Institute at Cork, Ireland. Not many technology developments can be truly described as 'a breakthrough' or "revolutionary' but this might just fit the bill. It does depend on the extremely small dimensions of silicon nanowires just a few dozens of atoms wide. EE Times picked up on an announcement of a paper on the topic being published by Nature Nanotechnology."
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Junctionless Transistor Could Simplify Chip Making

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  • The gate can be used the squeeze the electron channel to nothing without the use of junctions or doping.

    Proof Read Much?

  • Finally... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGeniusIsOut (1282110) on Monday February 22, 2010 @11:26AM (#31229582)
    Something to get excited about in the field of basic electronic components. Virtually ideal transistors that are easy to fabricate will revolutionize the nanoprocessor industry. I can see cell phones with the computing power of todays desktops in the next 5-10 years from this.
    • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@gma ... minus herbivore> on Monday February 22, 2010 @11:31AM (#31229644) Homepage
      I can see cell phones with the computing power of todays desktops in the next 5-10 years from this.

      I can see cell phones with the computing power of todays desktops in the next 5-10 years WITHOUT this.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I can see cell phones with the computing power of yesterday's (Y2K) desktops NOW.

        • by danhuby (759002)

          Absolutely.

          I have a 10 year old Dell Dimension XPS T500 next to me that I use for testing. It has a Pentium III running at 500MHz (and is still fine for most common tasks today btw).

          In my pocket I have an iPhone 3GS which has an ARM Cortex A8 running at 600MHz.

          I don't know anything about CPU internals but I suspect the ARM is of a more advanced and modern design, so the difference is probably greater than it seems with a straight MHz comparison. The iPhone also has more RAM.

          • Re:Finally... (Score:4, Informative)

            by afidel (530433) on Monday February 22, 2010 @12:03PM (#31229998)
            Yep, the A8 gets 2 DMIPs/Mhz vs the P3 at ~1.1 DMIPS/Mhz.
            • by danhuby (759002)

              Thanks, I was trying to find those figures :)

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by imgod2u (812837)

              The A8's theoretical maximum is 2 DMIPS/MHz. The P3's theoretical maximum is 3 DMIPS/MHz. In reality, I suspect the P3 is a bit ahead as it is OoO and -- if code is scheduled right -- can actually achieve the equivalent of ~5 ARM instructions (one complex instruction, 2 simple instructions can be decoded each cycle) each cycle.

              The ARM is in-order and can decode/issue only 2 ARM ops per cycle. Of course, the A8 uses far fewer transistors than even the earlier P3's without its cache.

              • Coders working with the beagleboard have found the A8 to be roughly on-par with a P3 per mhz.

                Most SoCs containing an A8, such as the OMAP3530, also have a powerful DSP co-processor and SGX 530 GPU. Skilled coders can offload a lot - and all this consumes about 400mw.

        • by lwsimon (724555)

          I can literally see one....

          Mine has a 600Mhz ARM CPU and 256MB RAM. I think I was using a AMD K6/2 350Mhz in 2000.

      • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by vlm (69642) on Monday February 22, 2010 @12:05PM (#31230016)

        I can see cell phones with the computing power of todays desktops in the next 5-10 years from this.

        I can see cell phones with the computing power of todays desktops in the next 5-10 years WITHOUT this.

        And I still won't have good coverage by my house, and the monthly bill will still be half a car payment, and all I want is a phone to make and receive calls.

        • and all I want is a phone to make and receive calls

          "...and those damn kids off my lawn!"

        • by Inda (580031)

          Move to a country with almost 100% coverage and stop complaining.

          I'll sell you a phone like that for £20. BNIB. 30 day contract. No ID needed.

          • by tyrione (134248) on Monday February 22, 2010 @04:16PM (#31234774) Homepage

            Move to a country with almost 100% coverage and stop complaining.

            I'll sell you a phone like that for £20. BNIB. 30 day contract. No ID needed.

            That's cost effective. Just relocate your belongings to a foreign country, set up residency, get a job all for the chance to have 5 bars. Brilliant!

            • I guarantee that if you relocate to the UK, you will have a lot more than three bars. The village where I grew up (population a bit under 2,000) had three pubs, two of which had two bars, one of which had three.
      • I can see cell phones with the computing power of todays desktops in the next 5-10 years WITHOUT this.

        It's a witch. A witch! Fire! Fire!

      • by Bakkster (1529253)

        I can see cell phones with the computing power of todays desktops in the next 5-10 years WITHOUT this.

        Sure, assuming we get a revolution in power storage/generation/transmission of a suitable size.

        One of the problems with making smaller silicon transistors is the leakage currents start to creep back up higher. This means more power consumption for the same speed. That's in addition to the normal increase in power consumption that goes along with faster clock rates. This type of transistor would sidestep this issue, as well as avoid the limitations of photolithography.

        • I can see cell phones with the computing power of todays desktops in the next 5-10 years WITHOUT this.

          Sure, assuming we get a revolution in power storage/generation/transmission of a suitable size.

          One of the problems with making smaller silicon transistors is the leakage currents start to creep back up higher. This means more power consumption for the same speed. That's in addition to the normal increase in power consumption that goes along with faster clock rates. This type of transistor would sidestep this issue, as well as avoid the limitations of photolithography.

          Not really - you're telling the Y2K story here. In reality, nobody has cared much about instructions per second (i.e. "Moore's Law") for the last decade or so - the driver of modern technology has been instructions per second PER WATT.

          As others have noted - the P3-500 type box that was the prevalent computing equipment of the year 2000 can be reasonably approximated by a modern smartphone. Without "nanowires" and similar stuff that is good for a neat press-release every couple years (like, uh, this one fr

      • I can see cell phones with the computing power of todays desktops in the next 5-10 years from this.

        I can see cell phones with the computing power of todays desktops in the next 5-10 years WITHOUT this.

        ...that you still have to interact with by "typing" with your thumbs.

        PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS!

        Itty-bitty interface.

        (With insincere apologies to Disney.)

      • by holmstar (1388267)
        And that is supposed to just magically happen? This breakthrough will likely be one of the things that makes your statement possible.
    • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jibster (223164) on Monday February 22, 2010 @11:34AM (#31229684)

      Virtually ideal transistors that are easy to fabricate will revolutionize the nanoprocessor industry.

      I didn't see anything that suggested fabrication would be easy. In fact the article mentions that e-beam lithography was used. If e-beam lithography is a neccessary component then you won't see this in the mainstream anytime soon. The process is slow. So slow it is never used for industrial applications. That said, it is used in acidemia all the time because nothing allows you to get build smaller structures.

      • Re:Finally... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Nutria (679911) on Monday February 22, 2010 @11:45AM (#31229826)

        I didn't see anything that suggested fabrication would be easy.

        Besides, we all know what Academics mean when they say in the next 5-10 years.

      • by metamechanical (545566) on Monday February 22, 2010 @11:47AM (#31229848)

        That said, it is used in acidemia all the time because nothing allows you to get build smaller structures.

        I've never heard such a caustic opinion of our universities! You must have sulfered much at their hands!

      • Re:Finally... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday February 22, 2010 @11:51AM (#31229908) Journal

        I didn't see anything that suggested fabrication would be easy.

        I saw the headline but thats about all I read.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        The lack of junctions certainly removes many fabrication steps. And e-beam lithography isn't necessary, it's just the patterning method they use. So it's only a matter of being able to match the feature size with another lithography method. I'm fairly certain 10nm lines made by photolithography have been demonstrated, which is what this structure is suggested for.
        • by treeves (963993)
          10nm lines? Not with conventional (ArF) or even immersion litho. It would have to be EUV or E-beam.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by imgod2u (812837)

        The article itself suggests this. I'm not familiar enough with lithography to comment on the equipment -- it could very well be prohibitive -- but the actual structure of the transistor would be far simpler; making it easier in the sense that there will be less variation in process to deal with.

        With no need for two junctions, there will be no danger of latch-ups; less source/drain capacitance and most importantly, the smallest feature size will no longer be just part of the transistor.

        Not having access to t

      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        I didn't see anything that suggested fabrication would be easy.

        What about this part from TFA?

        These structures are easy to fabricate even on a miniature scale which leads to the major breakthrough in potential cost reduction

        ... Just sayin' ...

      • If they are easier, as the article actually says they should be, to manufacture, then hopefully yields will be higher. Time not spent making parts for the bin could then be used for extra litho time if necessary.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      meh, nanowires have been around for ages. Great, they've found a nice way of gating it, but really that's it. This is just a press release...
      When they find a way of doing this without e-beam then it might be useful in industry.

    • by Tibia1 (1615959)
      Agreed. I'm going to have so much fun telling all the skeptics I told you so. Technology is exploding faster than anyone realizes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gmuslera (3436)
      5-10? more probably will be around 20. Inertia happens. xkcd [xkcd.com] too.
    • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by radtea (464814) on Monday February 22, 2010 @12:11PM (#31230086)

      Something to get excited about in the field of basic electronic components.

      It's an interesting bit of basic research. There's probably another decade of almost-as-basic research to be done before we'll know if this will ever get out of the lab.

      There are uncountably many interesting phenomena that never make it out of the lab for every one that does. Doing the basic research is a necessary aspect of technological innovation, but it is by no means sufficient, and the ability to do something on a small-scale with hands-on expertise is no indication that it will be useful or usable in an industrial setting.

      One of the problems with tech news reporting is that the continual stream of stories like this one, full of breathless anticipation, is never followed by an honest review five years later of where the "breakthrough" ended up, which means "breakthroughs" tend to fade quietly from memory without any awareness or acknowledgement that they didn't pan out as expected.

      If we saw more followups on ideas that never got beyond the "interesting phenomenon" stage we'd have a greater appreciation for the tiny fraction of innovations that do live to see the light of day in industrial applications. But that would require tech reporters to do more than lightly edit press releases and call them "news".

    • Now we will can run Crysis!! wooot!
    • by RevWaldo (1186281)
      Yeah, but vacuum tubes still create a warmer sound.
    • Well, the invention really looks interesting! The point is how much it can help save power cost and how scalable the architecture is
    • Re:Finally... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheGeniusIsOut (1282110) on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:01PM (#31232294)
      Too many divergent threads with faulty assumptions to respond to each individually, and obviously many of you did not bother to read beyond the summary, if that.

      Just because your iPhone has a 600MHz processor does not make it equivalent to a 10 year old computer. It is not running a fully functional operating system, does not have the same capabilities as a desktop system of that era even in sheer number crunching capabilities, and if your portable device attempted such, it would quickly drain the batteries due to inefficient components that lose a significant portion of their energy to current leakage and heat dissipation, while at the same time overheating the components themselves to a point of failure. Try using you iPhone to render high polygon count 3D models and see how it performs. Besides these simple points, there were distinct leaps in production technology that allow this approximation of performance to even occur. More efficient chip based transistors being a primary factor of not needing a large cooling system attached to the back of your phone to allow your display to show you video at a decent framerate

      A virtually ideal component is one that is almost 100% efficient, with little to no leakage and heat loss. With the reduction in waste heat, more components can be in close proximity to one another without interfering in their operation by skewing values due to heating. This new design is much faster than a traditional transistor, requires much less energy to bias, and is easy to manufacture.

      From the second page of the article:

      "The current flows in a very thin silicon wire and the flow of current is perfectly controlled by a `wedding ring` structure that electrically squeezes the silicon wire in the same way that you might stop the flow of water in a hose by squeezing it. These structures are easy to fabricate even on a miniature scale which leads to the major breakthrough in potential cost reduction," explained Professor Colinge.

      This squeezing is a biasing voltage, and no actual current flow through the gate is required, only a potential. Since there is no valence junction to bias before current can flow from source to drain, you do not need to supply signals of sufficient voltage to be registered, again requiring much less energy to operate.

      Cost reduction is another key benefit of this technology, rather than having to grow the silicates with an inaccurate doping method over a preformed substrate, which leads to inefficiencies in power consumption and the need for large transition zones due to no two junction type semiconductors having the exact same biasing voltages, which is why standard CMOS is off at 0.8V or lower, and generally on at 2.0V or higher, depending on tolerance. Transistors using less power to transition from one state to the other require less powerful power supplies, enabling even more compact designs, and to top it off, the technology is robust enough to directly interface with CMOS.

      I realize it takes more than a cursory knowledge of electronics to understand the true implications of this, which is why a number of you have made incorrect assumptions, but with a bit of extra reading, I firmly believe that at least some of you could become as excited about this breakthrough as I am.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Iron Condor (964856)

      I definitely don't see how these are any "easier to make" than random MOSFETs (of which we make a billion to a chip these days and they all work out of the box).

      I also don't really see how much "more ideal" they are than MOSFETs. In the end you're going to have to send a couple electrons around. The average transistor these days is switched by maybe a hundred electrons or so (maybe a few hundred, I haven't kept up with the field in the last 10 years). You're definitely not going to get that number below 1

  • We're one step closer to getting a flux capacitor.
  • Cark boiiiiiiiiii!!!
  • Yawn. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 22, 2010 @12:01PM (#31229986)

    Old news. This kind of thing has been thrown around a lot, for several years.

    But some university made a single transistor, and now suddenly the revolution is forthcoming. Last week it was graphene transistors, the week before that, 100GHz transistors on diamond.

    This is the direction that things are probably going to move - different geometries, wrap-around gates to improve gate control - and there's going to be a lot of materials science and new (to CMOS) materials needed. But we're not there yet, we're quite a ways out... and in many ways, this isn't even the limiting factor in microprocessors - it's wire delay, parasitic capacitances. That's why so many groups and corporations are focusing on silicon and polysilicon waveguides - using light as an interconnect, nearly lossless, instant, no parasitic coupling (ideally).

    I don't want to downplay what they did *too* much... but universities piss me off when they just become a PR machine. It's just plain irresponsible; it's a pissing match, and if just half of the things they claimed were true, that how things are right now would seem like the dark ages.

  • According to legend, God showed the Irish how to make whisky, so that they wouldn't take over the world.

    Too many exports from Bushmill's, Jameson, Tullamore, Michael Collins, Clontarf...?

    (More power to 'em and all, just trying to better understand the cause.)

  • Where have I seen that design before?

    It's been standard in nanotechnology since 2004 [acs.org], when the carbon nanotube community used it to create intrinsic nanotube (junctionless) transistors. I really doubt we were the first ones to come up with it either. Nanotubes aren't compatible with CMOS? Well, neither are electron beam lithography defined channels and gates.

  • by burnin1965 (535071) on Monday February 22, 2010 @01:54PM (#31232142) Homepage

    The article is very slim on details and dead wrong on some important facts.

    The gate can be used the squeeze the electron channel to nothing without the use of junctions or doping.

    The lack of a junction is not unique, ever heard of a MOSFET [play-hookey.com], "There is no pn junction, so there is no depletion region."

    And I'm curious how they induce conductivity in silicon without dopants, considering that silicon is a semiconductor [wikipedia.org] and a "semiconductor is a material that has an electrical conductivity between that of a conductor and an insulator", therefore "conductivity may easily be modified by introducing impurities into their crystal lattice" via doping.

    And the article includes one other statement that is questionable in my opinion...

    We have designed and fabricated the world's first junctionless transistor that significantly reduces power consumption ... Another key challenge for the semiconductor industry is reducing the power consumption of microchips. Minimising current leakage is one of the main challenges in today's complex transistors

    Gate leakage is an issue but the true bane of transistor power consumption is Rdson (resistance drain to source when transistor is on). The reason for the massive heat sinks and fans on processors today is not due to gate leakage its due to the resistance of the transistor channels and the various interconnects.

    Current flowing through the resistive channel and internconnects in the millions of transistors in a processor generates heat for the same reason that a basic carbon based resistor connected to a voltage source will heat up. And increasing the doping level in the gates and poly silicon interconnects reduces resistance, with no doping it seems the problem of power loss through heat generation will only be worse.

    The article is somewhat interesting and perhaps it is just a bad article lacking significant detail.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by imgod2u (812837)

      The lack of a junction is not unique, ever heard of a MOSFET, "There is no pn junction, so there is no depletion region."

      I would assume the article means there's no P-N barrier. MOSFETs don't have a gate-junction but they do have 2 sets of wells. From what I could read in the article, this seems like a single sliver of silicon.

      Gate leakage is an issue but the true bane of transistor power consumption is Rdson (resistance drain to source when transistor is on). The reason for the massive heat sinks and fans on processors today is not due to gate leakage its due to the resistance of the transistor channels and the various interconnects.

      Yes and no. In modern high-performance ASICs -- that is, the ones that run massive heatsinks -- the leakage current is actually close to matching the dynamic current; worst case dynamic current to boot. In 45nm HP, it actually overtakes dynamic current for realistic chip operation on something like a mi

      • it actually overtakes dynamic current for realistic chip operation on something like a microprocessor; since most of such a chip is idle even at full load

        I never considered gate leakage to be that much of an issue with power consumption, but I suppose when you have 47+ million transistors the tiny gate leakage current adds up.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by imgod2u (812837)

          Ever since 65nm, it isn't even "tiny" anymore -- well, relatively speaking. We're talking ~2 uW for an AO22 gate. But again, that's the high-performance processes.

      • by FlyingGuy (989135)

        As we all know in an ideal world the switch ( aka the Gate, Well, PN Junction whatevah ) would simply present either infinite resistance or infinite conductivity and nothing in between but since that is pretty much impossible we are stuck with what we have.

        Optics is where the future is, not in electron gates. Ideally there would be a light source ( a single source ) that would provide the signaling for all the components. This was done with mechanical gates, but that still involved the use of electrons to

  • FTA:

    Control gate like wedding ring

    I can assure you from personal experience that a wedding ring does operate like a control gate structure.

    If this device works as described, this is a huge breakthrough. But the devil is in the details. Hopefully it can be reliably manufactured.

  • by Khyber (864651)

    I wonder what uses this will have in the LED sector, if any at all.

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