Student Invents Alternative To Silicon Chip
As technology progresses it is inevitable that something will eventually replace the silicon chip, but who would of thought that time might be coming soon?
A student from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has invented a device that could replace one of the most commonly used pieces of technology in the world, the silicon transistor.
Weixiao Huang graduated his doctorates just this month, but his new gallium nitride (GaN) transistor has been drawing the attention major American and Japanese automobile companies for sometime now.
Huang Develops New GaN Transistor
The new GaN transistor promises reduced power consumption and improved efficiency for all power electronics systems; this will include everything from motor drives and hybrid vehicles to house appliances and defense equipment.
“Silicon has been the workhorse in the semiconductor industry for last two decades,” Huang said. “But as power electronics get more sophisticated and require higher performing transistors, engineers have been seeking an alternative like gallium nitride-based transistors that can perform better than silicon and in extreme conditions.”
Almost every electrical device contains a silicon metal/oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (silicon MOSFET). To convert the electric energy to other forms as required, the silicon transistor acts as a switch, allowing or disallowing the flow of current through the device.
Engineers have long known that gallium nitride and other gallium-based materials have extremely good electrical properties but until now, no useful GaN transistor has been developed.
Huang developed a new process that demonstrates an excellent GaN MOS (metal/oxide/GaN) interface. According to Huang, his GaN MOSFET is one of its kind and has already shown world-record performance
Huang has also shown that his invention is able to integrate several important electronic functions onto one single chip like never before.
“This will significantly simplify entire electronic systems,”
Huang has also designed and experimentally demonstrated several new high-voltage MOS-gated FETs which have shown superior performance in terms of lower power consumption, smaller chip size, and higher power density when compared to silicon MOSFET.
The new transistors may greatly reduce energy loss, helping to make energy conversion more efficient.
“If these new GaN transistors replaced many existing silicon MOSFETs in power electronics systems, there would be global reduction in fossil fuel consumption and pollution,” Huang said.
The new GaN transistors can also allow the electronics device to operate in extremely hot, harsh, and high-power environments and even those that produce radiation.
“Because it is so resilient, the device could open up the field of electronic engineering in ways that were not previously possible due to the limitations imposed by less tolerant silicon transistors,”
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