Optimizing Transistors To Save Energy

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Scientists from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have created a new way to detect defects in silicon carbide transistors. This method allows them to quickly and efficiently locate issues within transistors, so that the next generation will be even more energy-efficient.

Researchers believe this new technology will allow them to streamline how transistors work, so that they rely on less energy and use as little electricity as possible. This cuts down on the unnecessarily generated heat, which means devices don’t have to worry about creating complicated cooling systems to keep everything running properly — and which, in turn, require even more energy.

Although silicon has long been the standard for semiconductor material, these researchers believe that the solution to improved transistors lies with silicon carbide. This compound is made out of silicon and carbon, and it has numerous advantages over its predecessor: it works well at high switching frequencies which improves energy efficiency, it’s chemically robust, and it can withstand high temperatures and voltages with ease.

The problem with using silicon carbide in field-effect transistors, however, is the defects that arise as a result. In order to work, scientists must fabricate a very thin layer of silicon oxide which is either grown or deposited onto the silicon carbide. During fabrication, numerous defects can emerge that negatively impact the electrical current of the device.

Detecting these defects so they can be prevented in future generations is the task scientists set about for themselves. They discovered that the interface defects followed a very specific pattern — a pattern they could use to their advantage.

“We translated this pattern into a mathematical formula. Using the formula gives us a clever way of taking interface defects into account in our calculations. This doesn’t only give us very precise values for typical device parameters like electron mobility or threshold voltage, it also lets us determine the distribution and density of interface defects almost on the side.”

doctoral candidate Martin Hauck

Scientists tested out this method on specially-designed transistors to determine the accuracy of their new formula. It proved overwhelmingly precise, and gave scientists the information they needed to address any defects head-on, so that the next generation of transistors will be more reliable and more energy-saving than ever before.

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