Nano-scale “Vacuum Tubes” Can Produce Even Faster Semiconductor Chips
The Pitt Chronicle recently publicized a discovery that may mark a significant step forward in semiconductor technology that actually borrows from old technology: vacuum tubes.
“Moore’s Law” states that the speed and efficiency of transistors used in computer chips, related to the shrinking size of these transistors, tends to double every two years. The law has held up over time, but scientists and manufacturers are starting to reach the limit of current technology due to the cost and difficulty of production on a nanometer scale. Kim notes that even in the smallest transistors aren’t that efficient. “Electrons traveling inside a semiconductor device frequently experience collisions or scattering in the solid-state medium [silicon].”
Kim’s answer was to reconsider vacuum tube technology, which effectively eliminates the silicon medium altogether, resulting in higher efficiency and speed. Using a newly designed vacuum model, he and his team were able to extract electrons from a silicon chip using negligible voltage. The whole process is spelled out more in the article, but honestly it’s a bit beyond me.
Suffice it to say that this discovery could further extend Moore’s Law beyond the limitations of the silicon chip using nanometer-scale vacuum channels.