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Silicon's Long Good-Bye

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Indium arsenide

Strips of indium arsenide have been chemically etched so they release from the surface beneath.

Nature Publishing Group

Sometime in the coming decades, chipmakers will no longer be able to make silicon chips faster by packing smaller transistors onto a chip. That's because silicon transistors will simply be too leaky and expensive to make any smaller.

People working on materials that could succeed silicon have to overcome many challenges. Now researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found a way past one such hurdle: They've developed a reliable way to make fast, low-power, nanoscopic transistors out of a compound semiconductor material. Their method is simpler, and promises to be less expensive, than existing ones.

Compound semiconductors have better electrical properties than silicon, which means that transistors made from them require less power to operate at faster speeds. These materials are already in some expensive niche applications such as military telecommunications equipment, which gives them a leg up over more exotic potential silicon replacements like graphene and carbon nanotubes.

From Technology Review
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