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Soggy Computing: Liquid Devices Might Match the Brain's Efficiency


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A gate electrode, coupled with a droplet of ionic liquid, controls a switch made from vanadium dioxide. The channel of the device is 200 micrometers long.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics are studying vanadium dioxide.

Credit: Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics are studying vanadium dioxide, one of a class of materials called metal oxides that are capable of switching from an insulating state to a conductive, metallic one.

Vanadium dioxide could potentially be used to make very-low-power switches that retain their states even when no power is supplied to them.

The researchers redesigned a traditional transistor to maximize an applied voltage's ability to make the material switch states. The new design includes a thin film of vanadium dioxide, topped by a gate that consists of a droplet of ionic liquid, a salt with ions that are bound loosely enough to form a liquid instead of a solid. When a voltage is applied to this liquid gate, positive and negative charges move to opposite sides of the droplet. The researchers hypothesized those charges that accumulate near the vanadium dioxide film would enhance the electric field that is very close to the film, allowing it to be used to switch the state of the film from insulating to metallic.

The early results indicate the liquid gate could create a change in electrical state similar to that in conventional silicon-based transistors.

From IEEE Spectrum
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