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Electronics Get a Power Boost With the Addition of a Simple Material

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A schematic of the crystal structures in vanadium oxide, showing the motion of the vanadium (black arrows) with respect to the oxygen ions across the metal-insulator transition.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University say incorporating vanadium oxide into transistors boosts performance while improving stability and energy efficiency.

Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Pennsylvania State University (PSU) researchers say they have given transistors a big boost with a new technique to incorporate vanadium dioxide into the electronic devices.

Vanadium dioxide has an unusual property called the metal-to-insulator transition. In the metal state, electrons move freely, while in the insulator state, electrons cannot flow; this on/off transition also is the basis of computer logic and memory.

The researchers hypothesized that if they could add vanadium dioxide close to a device's transistor, it could boost performance and improve stability and energy efficiency. They were able to grow thin films of vanadium dioxide on three-inch sapphire wafers with a perfect 1:2 ratio of vanadium to oxygen across the entire wafer. The material can be used to make hybrid field-effect transistors, which could lead to more energy efficient transistors.

"The metal-to-insulator property of vanadium dioxide can ideally enhance state-of-the-art non-volatile memories by using the material as an augmentation device which, interestingly, can also serve as a selector in some memory architecture," says PSU professor Sumeet Gupta.

The vanadium dioxide thin-film material grown using the researchers' method was used to make super-high-frequency switches, which exhibit cut-off frequencies an order of magnitude higher than conventional devices.

From Penn State News
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