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Tiny Transistors For Extreme Environs

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University of Utah electrical engineers test a microplasma transistor by applying a voltage through four electrodes touching the surface of the transistor.

Electrical engineers say they have created the smallest transistors to date that can withstand the temperatures and radiation found within a nuclear reactor.

Credit: Dan Hixson, College of Engineering, University of Utah

University of Utah electrical engineers say they have fabricated the smallest transistors that can withstand the high temperatures and ionizing radiation found in a nuclear reactor. The devices measure 1 to 6 microns in length, or 500 times smaller than current state-of-the-art microplasma devices, and operate at one-sixth the voltage and at a temperature of up to 1,450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since nuclear radiation ionizes gases into plasma, this extreme environment makes it easier for plasma devices to operate. "This transistor has the potential to start a new class of electronic devices that are happy to work in a nuclear environment," says Utah professor Massood Tabib-Azar.

The team deposited layers of a metal alloy to form the gate on a 4-inch glass wafer, then deposited a layer of silicon on top of the gate. The microplasma devices will use a plasma-based connection for communication, and circuits will only be operational when powered up.

The researchers say the transistors could enable smartphones to take and collect medical x-rays on a battlefield, and allow devices to measure air quality in real time.

From University of Utah News
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