Newswise – A breakthrough could lead to the development of new low-power semiconductors or quantum devices.

As the integrated circuits that power our electronic devices become more powerful, they also become smaller. This trend in microelectronics has accelerated in recent years as scientists try to fit more and more semiconductor components onto a chip.

microelectronics Because of their small size, they face a major challenge. To avoid overheating, microelectronics must use only a fraction of the power of conventional electronics and still operate at peak performance.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have made a breakthrough that could allow a new microelectronic material to do just that. In a new study published in Advanced materialsThe Argonne team proposed a new type of ​“redox gating” technique that can control the movement of electrons in and out of a semiconducting material.

“The subvolt range at which this material operates is of enormous interest to researchers who want to create circuits that function similarly to the human brain, which also operates with great energy efficiency.” — Argonne materials scientist Wei Chen

“Redox” refers to a chemical reaction that causes a transfer of electrons. Microelectronic devices typically rely on an electrical “field effect” to control the flow of electrons for operation. In the experiment, scientists designed a device that could regulate the flow of electrons from one end to the other by applying a voltage – essentially a type of pressure that pushes electricity – across a material that acted as a type of electron gate. When the voltage reaches a certain threshold, about half a volt, the material begins injecting electrons through the gate from a redox source material into a channel material.

By using the voltage to change the flow of electrons, the semiconductor device could act like a transistor, switching between a more conductive and a more insulating state.

“The new redox gating strategy allows us to tremendously modulate electron flow even at low voltages, resulting in much higher energy efficiency,” said Argonne materials scientist Dillon Fong, one of the study’s authors. ​“This also prevents damage to the system. We see that these materials can be used repeatedly without degrading performance.”

“Controlling a material’s electronic properties also has significant benefits for scientists looking for new properties beyond traditional devices,” said Argonne materials scientist Wei Chen, one of the study’s co-authors.

“The subvolt range at which this material operates is of enormous interest to researchers who want to create circuits that function similarly to the human brain, which also operates with great energy efficiency,” he said.

The redox gating phenomenon could also be useful for creating new technologies Quantum Materials whose phases could be manipulated at low power, said Argonian physicist Hua Zhou, another co-author of the study. Furthermore, the redox gating technique could extend to versatile functional semiconductors and low-dimensional quantum materials made from sustainable elements.

Work at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source, a DOE Office of Science user facility, helped characterize redox gating behavior.

In addition, Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials, also a DOE Office of Science user facility, was used for materials synthesis, device fabrication, and device electrical measurements.

An article based on the study, “Redox Gating for Colossal Carrier Modulation and Unique Phase Control,” appeared in the January 6, 2024 issue of Advanced Materials. In addition to Fong, Chen, and Zhou, contributing authors include Le Zhang, Changjiang Liu, Hui Cao, Andrew Erwin, Dillon Fong, Anand Bhattacharya, Luping Yu, Liliana Stan, Chongwen Zou, and Matthew V. Tirrell.

The work was funded by DOE’s Office of Science, the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, and Argonne’s Laboratory-Directed Research and Development Program.

About Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials
The Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, leading national user facilities for interdisciplinary nanoscale research supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together, the NSRCs comprise a range of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to produce, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials and represent the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s largest infrastructure investment. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia, and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, see https://​sci​ence​.osti​.gov/​U​s​e​r​-​F​a​c​i​l​i​t​i​e​s​/​U​ s​e​r​-​F​a​c​i​l​i​t​i​e​s​-​a​t​-​a​-​G​lance.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. As the country’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts cutting-edge research in basic and applied science in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state, and local governments to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership, and prepare the country for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is led by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the Scientific Office of the US Department of Energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.

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