Major nanotech breakthrough by Tyndall researchers

1 Feb 2011

A team of scientists at the Cork-based Tyndall Institute have made the world’s first junctionless transistor even smaller. The breakthrough has already sparked off huge interest amongst the leading semiconductor manufacturers around the globe.

Tyndall Prof Jean-Pierre Colinge’s discovery was originally published in the most prestigious of research science publications, Nature Nanotechnology.

“The semiconductor industry was excited by the development of the junctionless transistor as it could represent simpler manufacturing processes of transistors,” Colinge said.

“Considering that there are approximately 2bn transistors on a single microprocessor, any improvement in the performance or structure of the transistor is always hugely significant for the semiconductor industry.

“Once we had developed the junctionless transistor our attention went towards making it even smaller. We have succeeded in making it at 50 nanometres, which is 20 times smaller than the transistors that were published in Nature Nanotechnology,” Colinge explained.

The nanotech imperative

Because today’s electronic devices are power hungry and feature hungry, the electronics industry is looking for ways to pack more features into their devices while making them more energy efficient.

“The new smaller junctionless transistor is now 30pc more energy efficient and outperforms current transistors on the market. Working with my colleagues in the Theory Group at Tyndall, we had predicted that the transistor could perform on a smaller scale and I am happy to say that we were correct in our predictions. It can be difficult to imagine the actual size of a transistor. However, if we look at a strand of our hair and imagine that the 50 nanometre junctionless transistor made in Tyndall is 2,000 times smaller, we can perhaps get a better idea of just what size scale we are working on,” said Colinge.

Nanoweek began 31 January and is a week-long programme of activities to promote nanoscience and nanotechnology in Ireland.

Nanotechnology has the potential to be a major engine of growth in the Irish economy and exports could be doubled from €15bn today to €30bn by 2015.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years