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posted by n1 on Tuesday June 24 2014, @08:16AM   Printer-friendly
from the everything-is-something dept.

Faster and smaller transistors are being developed and tested, and here's one of the more interesting new designs. It is effectively a vacuum tube/transistor hybrid. By utilizing modern manufacturing processes it is possible to make extremely small vacuum tubes that do not have any of the problems of older tubes, and also happen to be able to operate in the terahertz range.

Although we are still at an early stage with our research, we believe the recent improvements we've made to the vacuum-channel transistor could one day have a huge influence on the electronics industry, particularly for applications where speed is paramount. Our very first effort to fashion a prototype produced a device that could operate at 460 gigahertz -- roughly 10 times as fast as the best silicon transistor can manage. This makes the vacuum-channel transistor very promising for operating in what is sometimes known as the terahertz gap, the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum above microwaves and below infrared.

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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24 2014, @09:27AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24 2014, @09:27AM (#59305)

    Don't Date Robots!

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by janrinok on Tuesday June 24 2014, @09:28AM

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 24 2014, @09:28AM (#59306) Journal

    Having used thermionic valves in some of my early radio work, it seemed to me that they had gone forever when the transistor came along. The article is well written and explains clearly how each of the problems associated with the new work have been overcome, using the principles of valves but applying them to semiconductors. In fact there is no longer a need for a vacuum at all, no heating required and it is really little more than a redesigned semiconductor gate. Although this is still in the early stages of development, as admitted by TFA, I cannot see any potential insurmountable problems with the work ahead. It has significant potential and I would expect to see working products being available within a decade.

    I am too far out-of-date to suggest any uses other than the obvious, but I'm sure someone will come up with some very bright ideas to fully exploit whatever this device makes possible.

    • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Tuesday June 24 2014, @01:42PM

      by opinionated_science (4031) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @01:42PM (#59389)

      analogue computing?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24 2014, @03:55PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24 2014, @03:55PM (#59461)

      I wondered if it would be possible to get a transistor to switch fast enough to create xray (or faster) frequencies from a free electron laser. Maybe this will be able to get that fast someday?

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by kaszz on Wednesday June 25 2014, @01:29AM

        by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday June 25 2014, @01:29AM (#59645) Journal

        Terahertz is at least within grabs now. There are probably a lot of sneaky spying applications to be done ;)
        On a more serious note I think that spectrum might have some very interesting properties in the grey zone between "radio" and infrared light.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24 2014, @09:33AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24 2014, @09:33AM (#59308)

    From the article:

    "That is, you don’t, in fact, need to maintain any sort of vacuum at all for what is nominally a miniaturized piece of “vacuum” electronics!"

    This nicely shows how ambiguous the term "vacuum" actually is. The device operates in vacuum because it is so small that the normal air won't interfere substantially with its operation. OTOH, even the best "vacuum" we can make on earth is nothing compared to the "vacuum" in space, which actually isn't a true vacuum either, but only a gas of extremely low density (IIRC, about one atom per cubic meter).

    If you have a "vacuum" or not (or rather, how much what you have is a vacuum) is entirely a question of scale: The higher your gas density, the larger your region of interest can be before it no longer can be considered filled with vacuum.

    In space, nobody can hear you cry, but not because there's no gas, but just because your voice box and the ears of anyone who might otherwise hear you are much too small for the density of the gas. Solar system-sized giants would probably have no trouble speaking with each other in space (although they'd probably speak that slowly that we'd not even notice that something is going on).

    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Wednesday June 25 2014, @01:34AM

      by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday June 25 2014, @01:34AM (#59646) Journal

      > The device operates in vacuum because it is so small that the normal air won't interfere substantially with its operation.

      Cool!

      I guess that some forces in the small range size essentially repel the air molecules? ie different forces at different scales. This would likely mean that browns motion is side stepped and that walls in gas containers has a very very thin layer of "vacuum". If so one should be able to exploit this container less super vacuum for many other things.

  • (Score: 2) by hoochiecoochieman on Tuesday June 24 2014, @09:39AM

    by hoochiecoochieman (4158) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @09:39AM (#59309)

    Does this mean I'll be able to buy a Fender Twin Reverb the size of a matchbox?

    • (Score: 2) by unitron on Tuesday June 24 2014, @10:03AM

      by unitron (70) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @10:03AM (#59313) Journal

      Just as soon as you figure out how to shrink the power and output transformers as well.

      --
      something something Slashcott something something Beta something something
      • (Score: 2) by hoochiecoochieman on Tuesday June 24 2014, @10:13AM

        by hoochiecoochieman (4158) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @10:13AM (#59315)

        Graphene should do it. Not so sure about the speakers, though.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24 2014, @01:52PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24 2014, @01:52PM (#59400)

          Multicast wi-fi earbuds?

  • (Score: 1) by terryk30 on Tuesday June 24 2014, @01:26PM

    by terryk30 (1753) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @01:26PM (#59378)

    That's LSVI, Large Scale Vacuum-tube Integration

    (jeez, at first in caps I got hit by the Subject lameness filter)

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by meisterister on Tuesday June 24 2014, @04:35PM

    by meisterister (949) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @04:35PM (#59475) Journal

    I could swear I've heard of something like this before. Could someone who has read TFA comment on whether or not it's similar to this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_memory/ [wikipedia.org]

    The above link is to the wikipedia article on bubble memory.

    Here's an article from 2012 that seems to be the same idea:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/05/24/nanoscale-vacuum-transistors-way-cool-but-still-not-as-pretty-as-a-glowing-12au6/ [wattsupwiththat.com]

    --
    (May or may not have been) Posted from my K6-2, Athlon XP, or Pentium I/II/III.
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by janrinok on Tuesday June 24 2014, @06:02PM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 24 2014, @06:02PM (#59509) Journal

      I agree - it seems to be your second link that describes it perfectly, including the same authors' names. I'm not sure why the news has been re-released now (23 Jun 2014) although it does not claim that the work has been carried out in the immediate past. Perhaps someone has found a reliable way to manufacture these devices, or maybe someone has just had a bright idea on how to use this capability. Of course, there is always the possibility that no-one took the bait when it was first announced and they felt that it could do with a bit more publicity.

      I suppose that makes it a dupe from before SN even existed!

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 26 2014, @09:20PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 26 2014, @09:20PM (#60574)

        Maybe it's to do with the HP research method?

  • (Score: 1) by cyrano on Tuesday June 24 2014, @10:07PM

    by cyrano (1034) on Tuesday June 24 2014, @10:07PM (#59595) Homepage

    Philips developed an IC with miniaturized tubes in the late eighties. Don't remember what they had in mind as use for the device. Philips has had a lot of research like that that went nowhere...

    --
    The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. - Kali [kali.org]
    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Wednesday June 25 2014, @01:37AM

      by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday June 25 2014, @01:37AM (#59648) Journal

      But where they so small that it left air molecules out due to scale?

      Oh and "pointless" research educates researchers and tells everybody what not to do.

      • (Score: 1) by cyrano on Wednesday June 25 2014, @04:30PM

        by cyrano (1034) on Wednesday June 25 2014, @04:30PM (#59947) Homepage

        They were fractions of millimeters tall, but stil vacuum. The research wasn't pointless, but it never took on in the market. Only a few thousand IC's were made. I don't even remember the name.

        --
        The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. - Kali [kali.org]
        • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Wednesday June 25 2014, @04:44PM

          by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday June 25 2014, @04:44PM (#59957) Journal

          So these new things exploit inherent forces in the nature rather than vacuum pumped containers like in the 80's?

  • (Score: 1) by Max Hyre on Saturday June 28 2014, @12:47AM

    by Max Hyre (3427) <{maxhyre} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Saturday June 28 2014, @12:47AM (#61196)
    Maybe, perhaps? :-)

    Lameness observation: I added ``, perhaps'' solely because the caps filter freaked on ``Maybe'' by itself. C'mon, one cap in a five-letter word is excessive?