Scientists at the University of Rochester are developing a completely new type of transistor, named “Ballistic Deflection Transistor”. Instead of improving existing technology like FET– or bipolar-transistors they fire electrons through an electric field on to a wedge-shaped target. This target acts like the “cushion” of a pool-table, reflecting the electron either in one or the other direction.
This technology has the advantage that switching is lightning-fast – setting up a small electric field is faster than saturating a region of a classical transistor. The heat-dissipation is also much lower: with traditional designs you got to get rid of those electrons which you used to saturate a region.
Graduate student Quentin Diduck made up the design; he compares the transition to this new technology to earlier transitions in semiconductor-technology:
“Everyone has been trying to make better transistors by modifying current designs, but what we really need is the next paradigm, We’ve gone from the relay, to the tube, to semiconductor physics. Now we’re taking the next step on the evolutionary track.”
Marc Feldman, professor of computer engineering at the University, points out that the team is made up of scientists who usually work in different disciplines:
“We’ve assembled a unique team to take on this chip. In addition to myself and Quentin, we have a theoretical physicist, a circuit designer, and an expert in computer architecture. We’re not just designing a new transistor, but a new archetype as well, and as far as I know, this is the first time an architect has been involved in the actual design of the transistor on which the entire architecture is built.”
Nice quote from the original article which really shows that it’s something entirely new:
There’s one hurdle the team isn’t quite as confident about: “We’re talking about a chip speed measured in terahertz, a thousand times faster than today’s desktop transistors” Diduck says. “We have to figure out how to test it because there’s no such thing as a terahertz oscilloscope!“