Millivolt Switching

New, More Sensitive Transistors

Team: Ali Javey, Tsu-Jae King Liu, Sayeef Salahuddin, Laura Waller, Eli Yablonovitch

Microchips (the “brains” of electronic systems) comprise transistors which function as electronic switches to process and store information encoded in the form of electric potentials, i.e. voltages. To reduce the power consumption of a microchip, smaller voltages must be used. However, conventional transistors require a control voltage signal at least a few hundred millivolts in magnitude to operate effectively as on/off switches. Therefore, alternative electronic switch designs (e.g. employing quantum-mechanical tunneling, internal control-voltage amplification, and/or physical actuation) and switches based on advanced materials are being investigated in the BETR Center, to enable very low operating voltages (below 100 millivolts) and thereby overcome this fundamental limitation for today’s microchips. This electronics research entails theoretical analyses and simulation-based studies to guide design optimization, advanced materials and process development, fabrication and characterization of new switch designs, and demonstration of low-voltage ICs.