National Science Foundation-funded engineers have cleared another hurdle in high-power semiconductor fabrication by adding the field's hottest material -- beta-gallium oxide -- to their arsenal. Beta-gallium oxide is readily available and promises to convert power faster and more efficiently than today's leading semiconductor materials -- gallium nitride and silicon, the researchers said. Flat transistors have become about as small as is physically possible, but researchers addressed this problem by going vertical. With a technique called metal-assisted chemical etching -- or MacEtch -- engineers used a chemical solution to etch semiconductor into 3D fin structures. The fins increase the surface area on a chip, allowing for more transistors or current, and can therefore handle more power while keeping the chip's footprint the same size. The MacEtch method is superior to traditional "dry" etching techniques because it is far less damaging to delicate semiconductor surfaces, such as beta-gallium oxide.
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