Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have combined silicon and gallium nitride to create a hybrid microchip that they say is smaller, faster, and more efficient than today's chips. "We won't be able to continue improving silicon by scaling it down for long, so it's crucial to find other approaches," says MIT professor Tomas Palacios. He says new integrated technology could lead to more efficient devices by combining the functionality of several different chips into a single chip.
In-Stat analyst Jim McGregor says the hybrid chip is an important development because it shows the industry is experimenting with different combinations of elements, which will allow chip designers to change properties and create chips that can perform functions that were not possible before. "Chipmaking is becoming the ultimate chemistry and physics experiment," McGregor says. "We're using more and more parts of the periodic table, and we're down to nanometers and looking at how many electrons can flow from transistor to transistor."
MIT researchers did not add the gallium nitride as a layer on top of the silicon, but rather embedded it into the silicon substrate. Since the industry already uses this type of silicon substrate, the hybrid chip could be produced using available manufacturing processes. McGregor says the hybrid chip could reduce leakage and improve chip performance.
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