Researchers use new materials to develop world’s smallest transistor which is just 1 nanometer in its length, breaking what has previously been perceived as impossible.


Transistor size is an important part of improving computer technology. The smaller your transistors, the more you can fit on a chip, and the faster and more efficient your processor can be. That's why it's such big news that a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has successfully built a functional 1 nanometer long transistor gate, which the lab claims is smallest working transistor ever made.

The experimental device, which has a functional 1-nanometer gate, was built using carbon nanotubes and molybdenum disulfide rather than silicon — the material transistors in today’s electronic devices are made of.

For comparison, a human hair is roughly 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers wide.

A new transistor has been developed from a mixture of materials that is more compact than the most compact of silicon-based transistors. The problem is that silicon transistors have reached their minimum size limit. You cannot take the process any further.

Silicon has long been used to make transistors because it facilitates the free flow of electrons in a way that can be easily controlled through a process known as “doping.” However, the problem with silicon transistors is that there is a limit to how small they can be.  

The laws of physics set a 5-nanometer threshold on the size of silicon-based transistor gates, after which a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling makes it impossible to control the flow of electrons through them. But looking to the future, Moore’s law starts to run into trouble. 

While the 7nm node is technically possible to produce with silicon, after that point you reach problems, where silicon transistors smaller than 7nm become so physically close together that electrons experience quantum tunneling.

So instead of staying in the intended logic gate, the electrons can continuously flow from one gate to the next, essentially making it impossible for the transistors to have an off state.

The research here is still in very early stages.There are many more challenges that still exist before this mini transistor can become practically feasible. But as a proof of concept alone, the results here are still important – that new materials can continue to allow smaller transistor sizes, and with it increased power and efficiency for the computers of the future.

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