UNL research could reduce the world’s digital energy consumption by 5%

The new transistor design is meant to save space, retain memory and decrease energy use
Christian Binek, director of the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience and the Nebraska Nanoscale Facility. (photo credit: UNL)

LINCOLN Neb. (KLKN) – A new spin on one of the century’s smallest but grandest inventions, the transistor, could help meet the world’s increasing need for digital memory while reducing up to 5 percent of its current energy intake.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Christian Binek and University at Buffalo’s Jonathan Bird and Keke He recently teamed up to craft the first magneto-electric transistor.

The team received support from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, which funded the $20 million Emergent Quantum Materials and Technologies collaboration at Nebraska, and from the Semiconductor Research Corporation.

In addition to decreasing the energy consumption of microelectronics that incorporate transistors, the team’s design has the potential to reduce the number of transistors needed to store certain data by as much as 75 percent.

The team predicts that the change could make room for additional memory to track where users leave off when the system is shut down or abruptly turned off.

Every modern integrated circuit, such as a microchip, has millions of transistors.  In 2020, roughly 1 trillion microchips were produced.

According to UNL physicist Peter Dowben,  ‘There is a limit to how much smaller it (current microchips) can get. We’re basically down to the range where we’re talking about 25 or fewer silicon atoms wide. And you generate heat with every device on an (integrated circuit), so you can’t any longer carry away enough heat to make everything work.”

Because of the limits of current technology, the physicists are looking to spinning technology as opposed to the technology used now, which requires a charge.

“Now that it works, the fun begins, because everybody’s going to have their own favorite 2D material, and they’re going to try it out,” Dowben said. “Some of them will work a lot, lot better, and some won’t. But now that you know it works, it’s worth investing in those other, more sophisticated materials that could.”

For more information on the emerging research, visit UNL’s website.

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