The performance and possibilities of silicon transistors arealmost reaching their limit. And after many years of reinvention, it has now become an old technology for which the technical industry is searching for new possibilities or alternatives. One of this option is the manipulation of properties of materials which are already being used by the computing industry. If this idea works, it could help create energy-efficient processors which would be multi-functional i.e. capable of computing and storage both.
With some tweaking, researchers have been able to enhance the capability of ferroelectric materials. These are normally used for storing data by the usage of electrical charge. With the new technology, it is possible for these materials to switch quickly between 4 different states. These states could be used by a transistor for representing more of the basic digital logic of 0s and 1s. In this way this transistor could hold every state without needing external power, and would not only be capable of storing information but also have the option to process it.
Overcoming Problems due to size limitation:
Due to the decrease in the size of silicon transistors to nanoscale level, it has reached its performance limit, due to which it is facing issues of heat dissipation, speed and performance. For overcoming these challenges, devices which have different basics and functionality are needed.
Lane Martin from the University of California is a scientist at their materials department. According to Martin, the main advantage of these ferroelectric materials could be their extensive work on this technology, due to which if companies would like to adapt this new technology, it would take less time and not 10-year research, which is normally required for any new material.
Andrew Rappe is a theoretical chemist at University of Pennsylvania. Martin has teamed up with Rappe to test and model ferroelectrics.
The ferroelectric cells could be adjusted to change between many states for representing information. The whole physics of changing is fundamentally different from a transistor. Instead of moving between insulation and conduction states, these materials switch the order of charges inside the material which is called electrical polarization.
The Future Ahead:
Martin says that they want to move further than memory storage. They want to work on combining silicon and ferroelectrics to make totally new transistors. A device based on these materials would prove energy-efficient and contain memory as well as computing altogether in one device. So, if power is lost, data would be saved and one could go back to where one left of. Martin says it would be very convenient for not only home users, but would also save considerable money for the data centers too.