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$20m to find 'next transistors'

SRC and NSF sling semiconductor research dollars

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Research into the use of graphene in semiconductors is one of 12 projects to share $20m in funding from the National Science Foundation and Semiconductor Research Corporation.

The Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond competition shared the grants around 24 participating universities, with the aim of developing a replacement for today’s transistor. According to the SRC media release, the idea is to get ahead of the game, by creating the next transistor before we run irrevocably into the physical limits of Moore’s Law.

In particular, the SRC notes that cutting the power of transistors is proving as difficult as shrinking their size. If you can’t reduce the power needed, shoving more transistors into a given space creates ultimately-unsolvable problems of heat density.

Some of the projects are pretty cool. The “graphene spin” computer, for example, looks at how to use the spin of electrons travelling through graphene, enabling chips that combine processing and permanent storage (University of California). Graphene is also the focus of a Cornell/Princeton collaboration looking into fabricating nanoribbons of the material.

El Reg is also interested in this idea: a group at Pittsburgh University is looking at creating re-writable electronic circuits. The materials lanthanum aluminate and strontium titanate form an interface that can be switched between an insulating and a conducting state, allowing circuits to be rewritten down to a few nanometers.

If you like your research a little farther out, there’s also work at the University Notre Dame to use “spatio-temporal wave extensions” as the basis for computation.

The rest of the funded projects are listed here. ®

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