Computers and similar electronic devices have gotten faster and smaller over the decades as computer-chip makers have learned how to shrink individual transistors, the tiny electrical switches that convey digital information.
Scientists' pursuit of the smallest possible transistor has allowed more of them to be packed onto each chip. But that race to the bottom is almost over: Researchers are fast approaching the physical minimum for transistor size, with recent models down to about 10 nanometers -- or just 30 atoms -- wide.
"The processing power of electronic devices comes from the hundreds of millions, or billions, of transistors that are interconnected on a single computer chip," said Dr. Kyeongjae Cho, professor of materials science and engineering at The University of Texas at Dallas. "But we are rapidly approaching the lower limits of scale."
To extend the quest for faster processing speed, the microelectronics industry is looking for alternative technologies. Cho's research, published online April 30 in the journal Nature Communications, might offer a solution by expanding the vocabulary of the transistor.To read more, click here.