Year end Wrap-up

The most popular technical/computer topic at the end of 2023 was Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), which was briefly touched on in last month’s blog.  As 2023 draws to a close, the New York Times is suing the major developers of Generative AI for using their copyrighted news database without permission or compensation. [Ref. 1]  On the restrictive side, the UK’s top court decided that AI can not be named as an inventor on a patent. [Ref. 2]  It also indicated that the person who owned the program results was not the owner of the patent, because he was not named on the patent application as inventor.  This should make for an interesting upcoming year and patent law.

Regarding materials and semiconductors, there is a proposed new approach to semiconductor material.  Ferroelectric semiconductors are being studied.  The issues of speed, size including thickness (or thinness) and operation at high speed and high power are a challenge for moving into larger, bigger, faster devices.    The University of Michigan research [Ref. 3] is focused on ferroelectric high electron mobility transistor (FeHEMT).  Ferroelectric semiconductors can sustain an electrical polarization, think magnetism.  But, the ferroelectric semiconductor can switch which end is positive and which is negative. In other words, the transistor can change how it functions.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden [Ref. 4] have shown a configurable transistor.  The potential for this device is a more precise control of the electronics. Their work is with III-V materials to replace silicon.  The promise is high-frequency applications (6G and 7G networks) while reducing the power required.  The application would significantly benefit neuromorphic computations, which would enable stronger AI applications.  They examined new ferroelectric memory with tunnel barriers in order to create new circuit architectures (transistor type memory).  A key part of this work is the creation and placement of ferroelectric grains in the device structure.  This is a ferro-TFET transistor.  Like the development mentioned above, the properties of the transistor can be modified during the operation of the device.  One advantage is the “new” properties of the device remain constant even without any power needed to keep their state. 

Researchers from Northwestern University, Boston College, and MIT are pursuing a different type of transistor function. [Ref. 5]   They claim it can store and process information simultaneously, like the human brain.  A key difference form previous research is that the focus is bringing the memory and processing functions together without the necessary time lag of transporting the electrical signals.  Their claim is that by layering different patterns, two dimensional materials are formed that have novel properties from the individual materials.  The researchers stacked bilayer graphene and hexagonal boron nitride.  By rotating one layer with respect to the other, different properties could be developed in each graphene layer.  One lead researcher introduced a new nanoelectronic device that appears to be capable of manipulating data in an energy efficient manner.  In their experiment, that have demonstrated their synaptic transistor can identify similar patterns.  The additional claim is that the new device can provide a major step forward in AI applications.

It appears that the work on novel transistor structures and functionality might provide higher frequency applications with the potential of reducing the total power requires.  The power reduction directly effects the reduction of the heat generated by the devices.  We can expect more results in the coming 2024 year.


  3. Fully epitaxial, monolithic ScAlN/AlGaN/GaN ferroelectric HEMT –

About Walt

I have been involved in various aspects of nanotechnology since the late 1970s. My interest in promoting nano-safety began in 2006 and produced a white paper in 2007 explaining the four pillars of nano-safety. I am a technology futurist and is currently focused on nanoelectronics, single digit nanomaterials, and 3D printing at the nanoscale. My experience includes three startups, two of which I founded, 13 years at SEMATECH, where I was a Senior Fellow of the technical staff when I left, and 12 years at General Electric with nine of them on corporate staff. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, an MBA from James Madison University, and a B.S. in Physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Semiconductor Technology, Technology

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