Simulation tool indicates new transistor may keep Moore’s Law in force until 2050

West Lafayette, Indiana–Purdue University engineers have developed a new simulation tool, which they say shows that an innovative type of new transistor may keep Moore’s Law in force until 2025, or beyond. This is contrary to some industry predictions that Moore’s Law will hit a brick wall in about 10 years, and could provide scientists with enough time to develop new technologies to replace ICs made from silicon.

The Purdue engineers used a simulation tool, known as “nanoMOS,” to test the performance of a double-gate transistor, which carries twice the electrical current and can work more than twice as fast as conventional devices. Mark Lundstrom, professor of electrical and computer engineering, demonstrated that double-gate transistors one-tenth the length of the best conventional transistors can perform as well as current devices. Critical components in the transistors, electrodes known as gates, are only 10-nm long–compared to 100-nm conventional transistors.

Researchers are concerned that as transistors are shrunk below 100-nm it will be difficult to maintain high performance and fabrication quality. The major problem is that conventional silicon transistors cease to function below a certain thickness. That’s because at such thin dimensions quantum mechanics, in which electrons behave as both waves and particles, begin to have a measurable effect on performance. The ultra-thin layer of insulating material in such small transistors will fail to stop electrons from flowing, according to the engineers, and the transistor will no longer function as a switch.

That problem could be solved by double-gate transistors, says Lundstrom. The new simulation tool evaluates transistor performance with a sophisticated technique used to simulate electrical conduction in individual molecules. When applied to transistors, the same method predicts that a double-gate transistor can continue to perform well at gate lengths as short as 10-nm, and perhaps even shorter, explains Lundstrom.

“If we could learn how to manufacture a device like this, we could extend Moore’s Law to 2025,” Lundstrom says. Researchers at Purdue, the University of California at Berkeley, and the IBM Watson Research Center already have demonstrated working double-gate transistors.

The simulation tool is now available, through Purdue’s Nanotechnology Simulation Hub, for research use.

By Sally Cole Cederquist, SST Web Editor


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