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Combo transistor/memory cuts energy use by orders of magnitude

Combo transistor/memory cuts energy use by orders of magnitude

A newly developed logic device called the “atom transistor” is said to perform both logic and memory functions while reducing power consumption to 1 x 10-6 that of the conventional devices. Devised by researchers in Japan hailing from the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics, National Institute for Materials Science, and University of Tokyo, the work was done as a step toward the development of instant-on personal computers and other electronic equipment.

In contrast to conventional transistors, which control the movement of electrons in a semiconductor, the newly-developed “atom transistor” operates by transferring a small amount of metal atoms in an insulator. By using an insulator, which has higher resistance than a semiconductor, as the base material, and realizing on/off states by transfer of a tiny amount metal atoms in this material, the new device realizes a high on/off ratio on the same level as conventional semiconductor transistors with extremely low power consumption, researchers say. Furthermore, the “atom transistor” also operates as a memory element which retains states by control of the operating voltage range.

Conventional logic gates are formed by combining a logic element (transistor) and a memory element (memory). By combining the two functions in one device, the “atom transistor” developed in this research reduces the power consumption required for memory to 1/1,000,000 that of the conventional technology, say researchers.

These results were published online by the scientific journal “Applied Physics Express (APEX)” in December:

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