A new material created by University of California, Berkeley, researchers could reduce the energy required to control advanced silicon transistors.

Computers may be growing smaller and more powerful, but they require a great deal of energy to operate. The total amount of energy the U.S. dedicates to computing has risen dramatically over the last decade and is quickly approaching that of other major sectors, like transportation.

In a study published online in the journal Nature on April 6, 2022, University of California, Berkeley, engineers describe a major breakthrough in the design of a component of transistors — the tiny electrical switches that form the building blocks of computers — that could significantly reduce their energy consumption without sacrificing speed, size or performance. The component, called the gate oxide, plays a key role in switching the transistor on and off.

This boost in efficiency is made possible by an effect called negative capacitance, which helps reduce the amount of voltage that is needed to store charge in a material. Salahuddin theoretically predicted the existence of negative capacitance in 2008 and first demonstrated the effect in a ferroelectric crystal in 2011.

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