Silicon-based chip soon thing of the past?

The dominance of silicon in electronics may soon be over as researchers have now developed a flexible, energy-efficient hybrid circuit combining carbon nanotube thin film transistors with other thin film transistors.

Since carbon nanotubes are more transparent and flexible and can be processed at a lower cost, this hybrid could take the place of silicon as the traditional transistor material used in electronic chips.

Researchers developed this energy-efficient circuit by integrating carbon nanotube (CNT) thin film transistors (TFT) with thin film transistors comprised of indium, gallium and zinc oxide (IGZO).

“It is like a perfect marriage,” said Chongwu Zhou, an electrical engineering professor at University of Southern California (USC) in the US.

“We are very excited about this idea of hybrid integration and believe there is a lot of potential for it,” Zhou added.

Carbon nanotubes are so small that they can only be viewed through a scanning electron microscope.

This hybridisation of carbon nanotube thin films and IGZO thin films was achieved by combining their types, p-type and n-type, respectively, to create circuits that can operate complimentarily, reducing power loss and increasing efficiency.

The inclusion of IGZO thin film transistors was necessary to provide power efficiency to increase battery life.

“This gives us further proof that we can make larger integrations so we can make more complicated circuits for computers and circuits,” added Haitian Chen, research assistant at USC’s Viterbi school of engineering.

The findings appeared in the journal Nature Communications.

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