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Heading Toward Smarter Electronics

19 October 2017
Transistor electronics could be transformed by the development of quantum electronic devices. Image credit: CC0 1.0

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As published in the journal Nature Communications, research at Montreal’s Concordia University examining electron behavior within nanoelectronics sheds light on how engineers might overcome limitations by harnessing electrons’ quantum nature.

"We have shown experimentally that we can control whether or not positively and negatively charged particles behave the same way in very short carbon nanotube transistors,” said lead study author Andrew McRae (MSc 13), a Ph.D. student at the university. “In particular, we have shown that in some devices of about 500 atoms long, the positive charges are more confined and act more like particles, while the negative charges are less well confined and act more like waves."

Translation: the quantum nature of electrons can be tapped for storing information. By maximizing the behavior differences between positive and negative charges, a new generation of “two-in-one” quantum electronic devices could be developed. A single device could operate as both a quantum dot and a ballistic conductor, or as two quantum dots with different charging energies. Applications include quantum computing, radiation sensing, transistor electronics and, in turn, smarter and more efficient consumer electronics.

"The most exciting implications are for building quantum circuits with single devices that can either store or pass quantum information along with the flick of a switch," McRae said. "Our study also shows that we can build devices with dual capabilities, which could be useful in building smaller electronics and packing things in more tightly. In addition, these ultra-short nanotube transistors could be used as tools to study the interplay between electronics, magnetism, mechanics and optics, at the quantum level.”

Physics professor Alexandre Champagne, one of the study's co-authors, noted that he is pleased with the reception the research has garnered. "We were thrilled when our paper was accepted by Nature Communications because of the respect the journal has in the field," he said.

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