The Center for Low Energy Systems Technology (LEAST) explores new concepts for the transistor to dramatically lower the power requirements for electronics. Today’s integrated circuits are limited by power dissipation, heat, which limits the packing density of transistors on a computer chip. The mission of LEAST is to discover devices that will run cooler and pack tighter.
One way to dissipate less energy in a transistor is to lower voltage. This was a research focus of the Midwest Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery (MIND), which was established in 2008 as one of four centers supported by the Semiconductor Research Corporation’s Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (SRC-NRI). The MIND research team led the development of the tunnel field-effect transistor (TFET), a device which can outperform current transistors at low voltage. The first demonstrations of these transistors in compound semiconductor materials were achieved in MIND. The TFET has generated significant enough interest to enter industrial research labs worldwide. The device is now moving into a competitive development phase to be played out in the semiconductor industry. This is a significant success story for the NRI and MIND.
Universities are now asked to look beyond the tunnel transistor. Are there ways to construct transistors at even smaller sizes and still lower voltages? This answer will play out in the research in LEAST. Building on findings in MIND, the center will utilize atomistic material and device models to guide the engineering of new materials and devices that can operate at lower voltage and dissipate less energy.