As explained in the journal Applied Physics Letters, a team at the University of Michigan has demonstrated a reconfigurable transistor which uses a revolutionary new ferroelectric semiconductor material. This new type of transistor opens up the possibility for integrating multifunctional devices, such as reconfigurable transistors, filters and resonators, on the same platform — all while operating at very high frequency and high power. That’s a game changer for many applications.
Ferroelectric semiconductors stand out from others because they can sustain an electrical polarization, In the context of a transistor, this capability means it can change how it behaves. The demonstrated ferroelectric high electron mobility transistors are well suited for use as amplifiers for sending out signals to cell towers and Wi-Fi routers at high speeds. And it’s reconfigurable, so it can function as several devices. Therefore, engineers can reduce the circuit area and lower the cost as well as the energy consumption.
Applications of particular interest for this device are in reconfigurable radio frequency and microwave communication as well as memory devices in next-generation electronics and computing systems. These transistors could enable much lower power consumption in addition to high gain, making for much more efficient devices. The ferroelectric semiconductor is made of aluminum nitride spiked with scandium, a metal sometimes used to fortify aluminum in performance bicycles and fighter jets.
It is the first nitride-based ferroelectric semiconductor, enabling it to be integrated with the next-gen semiconductor gallium nitride. Offering speeds up to 100 times that of silicon, as well as high efficiency and low cost, gallium nitride semiconductors are contenders to displace silicon as the preferred material for electronic devices. This is a pivotal step toward integrating nitride ferroelectrics with mainstream electronics. The new transistor was grown using molecular beam epitaxy, the same approach used to make semiconductor crystals that drive the lasers in CD and DVD players. The University of Michigan has applied for patent protection on this technology.