One thing I know for sure is that all people plug their phones into the outlet before they go to sleep because unless they plug them in, they have to wake up to a new day with a low battery. Have you ever wondered how the energy is used in the phone or technological device that you are reading this article in?
We humans have nerves all around to understand our surroundings, check, and control. Similarly, computers have semiconductor devices called transistors that generate, control or amplify electrical signals. Multitudes of these devices are located on microchips. These transistors -silicon ones specifically- are used in most technological devices, the ones we are most acquainted with being computers, laptops, etc. The transistors are controlled with the presence of voltage. A crucial part of the transistors is gate oxide. In addition to that, the gate oxide is a fragile and thin layer of material that connects the source (applied voltage) and the drain (electric charge) and switches the transistor on by converting the first to the latter.
Recently, research from Berkeley showed that using an engineered crystal that consists of a stack of layered hafnium oxide and zirconium oxide on the gate oxide can lower the amount of voltage required to control transistors by nearly 30%, thus, the energy consumption of the computer. This research demonstrates that the researchers at Berkeley found a way to reduce the energy needed to run a computer without a change in size or performance.
The reason for the use of the aforementioned engineered crystals was the discovery of the negative capacitance. Negative capacitance is the occurrence when a decrease in voltage is caused by an increase in charge. Using this phenomenon reduces the amount of voltage that is required for the storage of electric charge in a material. Moreover, the negative capacitance is obtained by the engineered crystals. And the crystals can be used with silicon transistors. The performance of gate oxide can be developed and increased with the notion of negative capacitance by reducing the voltage according to the research.
Overall, we are in an age where everything is being digitized. Even our age is called “The Age of Information” or “Computer Age”. Thus, one of the most important aspects we need to consider in this age is energy, to continue forward in technological advancements. And helping computers run on less energy consumption and being able to reconcile advanced computing materials with the materials used in research is a huge step toward this goal.
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“Engineered Crystals Could Help Computers Run on Less Power.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 8 Apr. 2022, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/04/220408083839.htm.
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“Gate Oxide.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Feb. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gate_oxide.
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The Nanoscale Materials and Device Group. “Gate Oxide Studies.” The Nanoscale Materials and Device Group, 18 Mar. 2021, https://www.boisestate.edu/nano/research-areas/gate-oxide-studies/.
Kara Manke| April 7, 2022April 7, and Kara Manke. “Engineered Crystals Could Help Computers Run on Less Power.” Berkeley News, 7 Apr. 2022, https://news.berkeley.edu/2022/04/07/engineered-crystals-could-help-computers-run-on-less-power/.