Researchers at HP latch on to the successor to transistors
Researchers at Hewlett Packard think they may have come up with the successor to the transistor. In the future a ‘crossbar latch’ technique could provide the kind of switching at the molecular level currently performed by silicon based semiconductors.
The crossbar approach where tiny meshes of wires overlap each other has been a subject of intense investigation among nanotechnology researchers because they are relatively easy to manufacture and extremely high densities can be achieved.
According to the team’s findings, published in the Journal of Applied Physics, the device consists of a wire which serves as a signal line crossed by two other control wires. The junctions of the wires, which are only a few atoms wide, can be programmed by electric voltages to create the standard NOT, OR, and AND operations that make up a transistor’s functions.
The search for alternatives to silicon based transistors will become more pressing in the coming years as heat dissipation and the effects of quantum mechanics make the construction of ever smaller transistors increasingly difficult.
There is no need to sell the Intel and AMD stock yet though. The switches created by cross latch circuits are currently (!) much slower than the transistors in today’s microprocessors. However, the group is confident that new techniques can be developed to speed them up in the future.