"This solves the challenges of transistor insulating and conducting even as the transistor gate sizes shrink down to 32 and 22 nanometers," Raaijmakers says. "And it means that we can continue to provide more functionality on a chip of the same size. The next generation of computers is still possible, and we can make them to use less power, making their batteries last longer."
A team of researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina is also working with a hafnium oxide gate dielectric in an effort to significantly reduce microprocessor heat generation and speed up the data transmission rate. "This is a major breakthrough and will have significant impact on silicon [integrated circuit] manufacturing," the scientists report in a recent issue of Electronics Letters.
The use of hafnium oxide can help create processors that run at speeds faster than five gigahertz, whereas today's high-end single-core processors cannot surpass 3.8 GHz, says Rajendra Singh, director of Clemson's Center for Silicon Nanoelectronics and a co-author of the report, adding, "We should have machines running at these speeds in two to three years."
This type of computing power promises to turn even the smallest of devices into data-processing workhorses.