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Law-Defying Transistor Smashes Industry 'Limit', Measures Just 1nm (thestack.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: U.S. researchers have unveiled the world's smallest transistor reported to date, combining a new mix of materials, which makes even the tiniest silicon-based transistor appear big in comparison. The team, led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, designed the minuscule transistor with a working one-nanometer gate -- far surpassing any industry expectation for reducing transistor sizes. In the scientific study, MoS2 transistors with 1-nanometer gate lengths, published today in the journal Science, the researchers describe a prototype device which uses a novel semiconductor material known as transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs). The transistor structure uses a single-walled carbon nanotube as the gate electrode and molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) for the channel material, rather than silicon. "The semiconductor industry has long assumed that any gate below 5 nanometers wouldn't work, so anything below that was not even considered. This research shows that sub-5-nanometer gates should not be discounted. Industry has been squeezing every last bit of capability out of silicon. By changing the material from silicon to MoS2, we can make a transistor with a gate that is just 1 nanometer in length, and operate it like a switch," explained study lead Sujay Desai.
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Law-Defying Transistor Smashes Industry 'Limit', Measures Just 1nm

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    At what cost?

  • Law defying? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Friday October 07, 2016 @06:49PM (#53035299)

    Call Chuck Norris - he'll kick that transistor's ASS!

    On a more serious note, wouldn't devices with such small geometries need some really heavy shielding to prevent destruction by cosmic particles? Heck, I have to wonder if at that size even background radiation would be a risk factor.

    • Re:Law defying? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07, 2016 @09:00PM (#53035775)

      No.
      One of the most damaging effects of Radiation on solid state devices is permanent damage to the Silicon crystalline structure. (Usually, one just gets a SEU; a change in state corresponding to the Energy lost by particles passing through, which can be cleared by refreshing the device.) This can either lead to either less or more Resistance, or even a short or an open.
      These Transistors don't use Silicon, and in principle at least, should be far less susceptible to Radiation Effects and Radiation Damage.

      One thing not addressed with this Tech, and in fact is rarely addressed, is Molecular Creep. (Most of us know about this because of the "Tin Whiskers" Problem.) This means at the most basic level, permanent movement atom by atom, along the Electrical paths. Which means that over time, the MoS2 can migrate to where it's not wanted. But the Gate switching is at the tens of milliVolts level, so even that may not be an issue.

      A bigger significance is here, from Wikipedia:
      "The band gaps of TMDC monolayers are in the visible range (between 400 nm and 700 nm)."
      This is a game changer for Optics, all sorts of Optics.

  • Wake me up... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07, 2016 @06:52PM (#53035317)

    ... when they actually have a working product. These lab projects don't quality as realizable, I remember the same promises were made about CPU's getting to 10+GHZ that never happened and CPU speeds hit a brick wall around 2006 because heat and leakage became too much which meant going much beyond 5Ghz became a pipe dream.

    • ... when they actually have a working product.

      Slashdot is a site for nerds. If you are not interested in geeky news about scientific research, then please go elsewhere and read about Kim Kardashian or whatever.

      I remember the same promises were made ...

      No "promises" are being made.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Good thing it deals with very low energy levels. Because progress in computing does not translate to progress in other fields. In ten years, jet airplanes will still be the same and take 6 hours to cross the Atlantic.

  • 5nm Limits? Phooey (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Friday October 07, 2016 @07:12PM (#53035363) Homepage Journal

    This..
    >The semiconductor industry has long assumed that any gate below 5 nanometers wouldn't work, so anything below that was not even considered.

    This is simply false.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Best news in a long time.

  • Simulation (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Friday October 07, 2016 @07:16PM (#53035379) Journal

    This is great news! The information density with these 1 nanometer transistors should be such that I can simulate simulate the universe with enough accuracy for sentient beings to eventually come into existence. Eventually they will advance sufficiently enough to question whether or not they are in a simulation, and they will begin efforts to test how accurate my simulation is in order to determine its existence. Then, just when they discover that the simulation is flawed in some way, and thus detectable, I'll pull the plug and start a fresh simulation.

  • by The Evil Atheist ( 2484676 ) on Friday October 07, 2016 @07:17PM (#53035383) Homepage
    Let me use it to make and play the world's smallest electric violin.
  • Excellent (Score:5, Funny)

    by c ( 8461 ) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Friday October 07, 2016 @07:19PM (#53035395)

    ... Apple should be able to knock at least another 2-3mm of thickness off the iPhone with these things.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But they have to remove the screen, which is becoming the limiting factor!

  • Muon-catalyzed transistors!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Will this result in higher possible clock speeds?

  • For what at least looks like a possible solution to the ever-present electronic challenges of shrinking geometry, yielding the usual benefits of speed, size and density, I'm seeing some really ridiculous comments. Recall that the first transistor "...was about the size of the palm of a hand, with a depth of two matchbooks stacked on top of each other." Basic technological breakthroughs do not automagically turn into "thinner iPhones" or other crapola for a while, but they do break new ground.
  • 1nm Gate Size (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Friday October 07, 2016 @08:57PM (#53035753)

    1nm is the gate length, not the size of the entire transistor. Typically-quoted transistor sizes are actually the process nodes, which are half of the distance between the same feature in neighboring transistors, so they're not comparable to a measurement of an individual transistor. That said, I seem to recall a story from over 10 years ago, about someone creating a single 1nm transistor. The trick, now as then, is to use lithography to create billions of them connected to one another to form integrated circuits, and the main limitation in size reductions has been lithography tech rather than transistor tech.

    • Wow, 1nm means using gamma waves [google.com.au]. I see the issue now.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I wondered when someone would fire the magic bullet.
      It's fine and dandy that they can make bits work in labs etc,but let's see how they reckon to actually make them for the mass market,I've not heard of any major break through in lithographic limits lately.
      It still looks like it will have to be hugely powerful uv,or possibly something akin to the uk's diamound light..

    • "the process nodes, which are half of the distance between the same feature in neighboring transistors"

      Somewhat besides the point, but a) these days the process node bears of causal relationship with any physical dimension in the device; b) even back in the day it would correspond to a feature size and never a half-pitch.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    With normal transisitors, they degrade over time as electrons/atoms get knocked off the C/B/E. For big transistors, this degradation or wear is no big deal but how long can miniturization go on for before this does become a problem?

    • You can run at lower current. Given the smaller cross section this has to happen anyway as there is less room for electrons to flow.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is this IBM vs US Lab?
    Electron driving down a single lane that's very narrow might hop over to the next lane & go the other way.
    Transistors depend on type of materials.
    *Some transistors are slow to wake up (type of materials)
    *Some transistors are fast to wake up (type of materials)
    *Fat old transistors can switch on fast due to High wattage & materials warn.
    *Feed the old fat transistor slowly with wattage and it will wake up slowww.

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