Hybrid circuits may make silicon a thing of the past

Jun 18 2014, 17:33 IST
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(Photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)
SummaryResearchers have developed a flexible, energy-efficient hybrid circuit that could replace silicon in electronic chips.

Move over, silicon, there's a new circuit in town!

Researchers have developed a flexible, energy-efficient hybrid circuit that could replace silicon in electronic chips.

Scientists from the University of Southern California (USC) said they have overcome a major issue in carbon nanotube technology by developing a flexible, energy-efficient hybrid circuit combining carbon nanotube thin film transistors with other thin film transistors.

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

Electrical engineering professor Dr Chongwu Zhou and USC Viterbi graduate students Haitian Chen, Yu Cao, and Jialu Zhang 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).

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, researchers said.

The inclusion of IGZO thin film transistors was necessary to provide power efficiency to increase battery life. If only carbon nanotubes had been used, then the circuits would not be power-efficient.

The potential applications for this kind of integrated circuitry are numerous, including Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs), digital circuits, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, sensors, wearable electronics, and flash memory devices.

Even heads-up displays on vehicle dashboards could soon be a reality.

The new technology also has major medical implications. Currently, memory used in computers and phones is made with silicon substrates, the surface on which memory chips are built.

To obtain medical information from a patient such as heart rate or brainwave data, stiff electrode objects are placed on several fixed locations on the patient's body.

With this new hybridised circuit, however, electrodes could be placed all over the patient's body with just a single large but flexible object, researchers said.

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