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Researchers Create 4nm Transistor With Seven Atoms

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the xanthir-has-almost-70k-hp dept.

Australia 120

EmagGeek writes "University researchers have created a transistor by replacing just seven atoms of silicon with phosphorous. The seven-atom transistor has hopeful implications for the future of quantum cryptography, nuclear and weather modeling, and other applications. 'The significance of this achievement is that we are not just moving atoms around or looking at them through a microscope,' says Professor Michelle Simmons, a co-author of a paper on the subject that is being published by Nature Nanotechnology. The paper is entitled 'Spectroscopy of Few-Electron Single-Crystal Silicon Quantum Dots'."

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7 Atoms? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32348420)

Should've used a VIA C7 instead.

Re:7 Atoms? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32348448)

I'm going to fuck your ass, bitch.

Re:7 Atoms? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32348604)

With your atom-sized dick?

Not Holding My Breath (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32348454)

It sounds like they did this by moving single atoms at a time, and not through any kind of lithography, or mass-producible process. So while neat, like the single atom transistor story from a while back, it doesn't look like they really have a way to produce billions of these at a time. We may have to wait a long time before we see anything like this in our home PCs.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (3, Interesting)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348784)

You probably don't need a quantum computer to wait on I/O in your home PC.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32349050)

You probably don't need a quantum computer to wait on I/O in your home PC.

You also probably don't need more than 640K.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32349668)

This isn't insightful. The analogy drawn is invalid on many levels.

The argument isn't that a quantum computer isn't necessary. It's pointing out the fact that computing is often I/O limited - how fast a computer can move data around to be processed. He's saying that advances need to come in other areas before things like this are significant.

And, as someone with a background in these things - you don't make a good transistor with 7 phosphorus atoms. There has to be more to it. The fact that they created a transistor on the order of several atoms isn't exciting either, IBM worked out how to move around atom by atom a long time ago. With the right equipment, this has always been theoretically possible, but practically, retarded.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32349776)

You probably don't need a quantum computer to wait on I/O in your home PC.

Fair enough. Reading TFA doesn't really give any clues as to how fast a switching speed they get on this transistor either. Meanwhile I will keep saving up for a good SSD because the i920 is fast enough for me, but HDD speeds just aren't. One other thing, the article mentions applications in quantum computing but this seems to be a "traditional" transistor. Could anybody with more of a clue fill me in on the details? The TFA is rather light on info.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350748)

You probably don't need a quantum computer to wait on I/O in your home PC.

That depends. Will it speed up the Gaussian Blur filter in Photoshop?

Re:Not Holding My Breath (2, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348820)

It'll take a really wicked manufacturing process to ever make, too. 7 atoms? What if you get only 6? What if you get 8? What if one is slightly off position? We've already been at sub-100nM processes for years now, and things are already too "grainy" for real comfort.

Oh yeah, what's the difference between "on" current and "off" current?

Re:Not Holding My Breath (2, Interesting)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348906)

Even if you could mass produce this structure it will always be impractical because natural diffusion processes will cause the atoms to migrate out of position.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349522)

Even in a crystaline structure? Forgive me, IANAMS.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (4, Informative)

bain itic (1593851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350220)

Even in a crystaline structure? Forgive me, IANAMS.

Yes, even in a crystalline structure. Diffusion in solids at the macroscopic scale seems slow compared to say, cream in your coffee, but at the atomic scale... They did this at the surface, which makes it even worse. I can't imagine this lasting any useful amount of time without some SEVERE cooling measures. I'm not sure if even liquid nitrogen could save it. IAAMS.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350438)

Any idea how close (or far) we are from being able to produce stable room-temperature quantum dots and wells? Perpetually 20 years away?

Re:Not Holding My Breath (2, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348936)

It'll take a really wicked manufacturing process to ever make, too. 7 atoms? What if you get only 6? What if you get 8? What if one is slightly off position?

Building a car with 4 wheels? What if you only get 3? What if you get 5? What if one is slightly off position?

An automated process doesn't care about size. What they did, can be replicated. Thus, it can be automated, unless there's a creative process involved that implies the use of a human mind, which I strongly doubt.

If the automation is too slow, it can be multiplied. If multiplying is still not enough, the process itself of creating and assembling multiple automatons can be multiplied.

Price vs usefulness of the final product may well be a problem, but size isn't. It was until it was solved, which is precisely the point of the news.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (3, Informative)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349076)

It'll take a really wicked manufacturing process to ever make, too. 7 atoms? What if you get only 6? What if you get 8? What if one is slightly off position?

Building a car with 4 wheels? What if you only get 3? What if you get 5? What if one is slightly off position?

An automated process doesn't care about size. What they did, can be replicated. Thus, it can be automated, unless there's a creative process involved that implies the use of a human mind, which I strongly doubt.

If the automation is too slow, it can be multiplied. If multiplying is still not enough, the process itself of creating and assembling multiple automatons can be multiplied.

Price vs usefulness of the final product may well be a problem, but size isn't. It was until it was solved, which is precisely the point of the news.

In macroscopic terms the world is simple. The finer the resolution the more complex the world gets. In nanoscopic terms the world is complicated.

Our current technology allows us to automate macroscopic processes with high precision. Nanotechnology however is one leading edge technology, and as such the precision certainly isn't there to make a fair comparison to automated macroscopic processes.

Think of a doctor performing surgery: a large benign tumor in section of fat could be easily removed, while a miniscule brain tumor would probably be one of the most difficult to remove.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (2, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349224)

In macroscopic terms the world is simple. The finer the resolution the more complex the world gets. In nanoscopic terms the world is complicated.

Making chips is considerably harder than making bricks; and yet we do make both.

Our current technology allows us to automate macroscopic processes with high precision. Nanotechnology however is one leading edge technology, and as such the precision certainly isn't there to make a fair comparison to automated macroscopic processes.

Making chips was once leading edge technology, not comparable to making bricks; and yet we made both.

Think of a doctor performing surgery: a large benign tumor in section of fat could be easily removed, while a miniscule brain tumor would probably be one of the most difficult to remove.

Removing a minuscule brain tumor is much harder than amputating a leg; and yet we do both.

That's precisely the point of science and technology. Some guy spends years doing something that was previously impossible. Some other guys try little variants on the same action. And then a guy develops a process of doing the exact same thing but better, faster and cheaper.

Once the action passes through the imposibility barrier, the steps from "breakthough" to "mundane" are well known. We've spent several thousand years walking those steps on each new discovery.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32349494)

The problem is that even at current sizes, we experience a large amount of process variation, which is basically deviation of the actual device sizes from the ones you specified due to it being so damn hard to make something that small:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_variation_%28semiconductor%29

Process variation is becoming one of the biggest problems as chips shrink, because the variation in transistor sizes means that every circuit has to be designed with some amount of safety buffer, which increases as the amount of process variation increases. This can be remedied by improvements in fabrication techniques and by alterations to circuit design, but it seems highly likely that it will remain a problem for a long time, especially at smaller process nodes.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349802)

Exactly. That, indeed, is a problem specific to the mechanization of the process.

Additionally to improvements in fabrication techniques and design alterations (which I don't think will be possible in this case) there's also the often used option of discarding the bad results, which, as always, turns into a pure production cost problem.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (4, Funny)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349542)

In macroscopic terms the world is simple. The finer the resolution the more complex the world gets. In nanoscopic terms the world is complicated.

Making chips is considerably harder than making bricks; and yet we do make both.

Our current technology allows us to automate macroscopic processes with high precision. Nanotechnology however is one leading edge technology, and as such the precision certainly isn't there to make a fair comparison to automated macroscopic processes.

Making chips was once leading edge technology, not comparable to making bricks; and yet we made both.

Think of a doctor performing surgery: a large benign tumor in section of fat could be easily removed, while a miniscule brain tumor would probably be one of the most difficult to remove.

Removing a minuscule brain tumor is much harder than amputating a leg; and yet we do both.

That's precisely the point of science and technology. Some guy spends years doing something that was previously impossible. Some other guys try little variants on the same action. And then a guy develops a process of doing the exact same thing but better, faster and cheaper.

Once the action passes through the imposibility barrier, the steps from "breakthough" to "mundane" are well known. We've spent several thousand years walking those steps on each new discovery.

So then, just so I'm clear, leg amputation is just as difficult as brain surgery; bricks are just as hard to make as silicon wafers.

Thanks for clearing all that up. Now that you've enlightened me on now the world works I will fly home after work this evening using nothing but my arms. Because I can walk with my legs.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (0, Redundant)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349730)

So then, just so I'm clear, leg amputation is just as difficult as brain surgery; bricks are just as hard to make as silicon wafers.

The point is precisely that being harder doesn't stop us from doing things.

This conversation started with someone pointing the extra difficulties of a new, just proven, process. My point is that those difficulties, that obviously make the problem a hard one, were exactly what was proven resoluble. The news are that those problems were surpassed. We're now on the mechanizing the solution phase.

The point is that the initially mentioned difficulties are the "already solved" ones. Not that it's an easy process to mechanize, just that the possibility of doing it is precisely what was proven, and that what is now ahead is not actually achieving the feat, which was already done, but making it cheaper and faster.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350962)

What are you smoking? Reliably being able to produce something so intricate and tiny, on any useful scale, is fantastically more complicated than producing current silicon chips. The process isn't proven - not even close.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32350340)

So then, just so I'm clear, leg amputation is just as difficult as brain surgery; bricks are just as hard to make as silicon wafers.

Yes, I can see how you would have gotten that from "Removing a minuscule brain tumor is much harder than amputating a leg".

Re:Not Holding My Breath (1)

guppysap13 (1225926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348960)

In very simple terms, transistors work like a switch. When a voltage is applied to the base (one terminal), they allow current to flow between the collector and emitter (other two terminals). "On" current is when the transistor is allowing the current to flow. "Off" is...off. No current flows. If I'm wrong, someone correct me. I'm helping someone on a project with some transistors, and need to know if I'm messing it up.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32349388)

You're wrong. Below the Threshold Voltage, there is always some amount of leakage current that flows. This poses a problem as feature sizes get smaller because The ratio of on current to off current (I_on / I_off) gets smaller. Note that leakage current is the reason that circuits can work with power supplies lower than their threshold voltage in order to operate at very low power (though they become exponentially slower).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subthreshold_leakage

Source: I work with a professor who's area of research is subthreshold circuit design.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (2, Informative)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349400)

"Off" is almost never zero current. There's usually just a tiny amount of 'leakage' current, although some quantum designs (such as this one seems to be) can have exactly no current while off.

Basically, while all our computers and data are binary, they operate in an analog environment. We just treat any value greater than (for example) analog 0.8 as a digital 1, and anything less than analog 0.2 as a digital 0. The problem has been as we shrink the gate size and thickness and reduce supply voltage in order to get faster, we also increase this leakage current.

One of the things keeping us from getting smaller faster is that without handling this well, we could have the issue where the 'off' current was more than 50% of the 'on' current, sometimes significantly more. It's still technically a transistor, but it's not practical if you're trying to determine between 8uA for 'on' and 7uA for 'off'. What GP is asking is whether this is a practical transistor (the output currents are different enough that it could be used to toggle the gate of another equivalent transistor), or just a theoretical 'acts like a transistor, but has no use'.

Read this [wikipedia.org] for a bit more info.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (2, Informative)

tool462 (677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349578)

You've got the theory basically correct, but in the real world the "off" current is just less current, not zero current. To get a good signal to noise ratio, you want Ion / Ioff to be as big as possible. In older processes (or thick oxide devices) you can get really good ratios. You could have an Ion of 10mA and an Ioff of 10nA, for example, for a ratio of 1e6. For newer process nodes on thin oxide devices, that ratio may get as low as 1e3 or worse. In that range, the device still works well for digital circuitry, but speed comes at the expense of very high leakage power. As that ratio gets even lower, you end up with a device that isn't suitable for digital circuitry--you can't tell the difference between an on and an off device reliably.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (1)

asukasoryu (1804858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348856)

While I would agree that this is a proof of concept rather than mass production, I don't think we need billions of quantum computers. Does every home PC need to be a quantum computer anyway? The value of a single quantum computer may offset the cost of building it one atom at a time.

Re:Not Holding My Breath (2, Insightful)

tom17 (659054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348956)

and 640K should be enough for anyone too, right?

Re:Not Holding My Breath (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32349404)

The first transistor... could it be produced in a mass-producible process?
It's legacy that matters.

New hardware error? (4, Funny)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348476)

Just wait until you get an error message that says:

* * * ATOM NOT PRESENT ERROR * * *

Re:New hardware error? (3, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348634)

Better than the Wolfcastle error:
At them not present error.

Re:New hardware error? (4, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349012)

Atom decay detected, insert proton. (Insert, Abort, Cancel)

Re:New hardware error? (3, Funny)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349134)

"Are you sure you want to insert a proton?"

(Positive, Cancel)

Re:New hardware error? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32350868)

Actually, I'm running Windows. So I just get a "General Atom Failure"

But, at least my intel Atom processor has finally earned it's name.

Re:New hardware error? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349422)

Atom not found. Strike any nucleus to continue.

Re:New hardware error? (4, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349222)

* ATOMIC ERROR: ATOM IS EITHER PRESENT OR NOT PRESENT (I CAN'T TELL, CAN YOU LOOK)

cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat vv

Re:New hardware error? (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349292)

"PC LOAD PHOSPHORUS"?

What the fuck does that mean?

Re:New hardware error? (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350890)

I'd be more worried about getting Out Of Cheese errors.

Eat my transistor (5, Funny)

flahwho (1243110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348496)

I once created a transistor with seven raisins. It didn't last long and I think Kelloggs stole the patent!

--I forgot my sig.

Re:Eat my transistor (1)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349432)

I used them as 'nads to glue onto my Nazi Party action figures: Himmler, Goebbels, Hitler and Göring.

Re:Eat my transistor (1)

GeekLove (1604967) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350316)

I used them as 'nads to glue onto my Nazi Party action figures: Himmler, Goebbels, Hitler and Göring.

Who only got one?

Re:Eat my transistor (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 4 years ago | (#32351002)

Hitler [wikipedia.org] , of course.

Re:Eat my transistor (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350150)

"'Spectroscopy of Few-Electron Single-Crystal Silicon Quantum Dots"
It's a shame that the good Professor could not have applied the same logic to the title of his paper.

By This Logic... (-1, Offtopic)

techsoldaten (309296) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348502)

By this logic, if I ran a rail through my head and the rail started to rust, that would be evidence that people can rust.

No thanks, I will wait for a computer to get staph before I accept this as evidence of a virus moving between person and machine.

M

Re:By This Logic... (-1, Redundant)

techsoldaten (309296) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348512)

Ooops wrong thread.

: /

M

Re:By This Logic... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348526)

Wrong article, clod! [slashdot.org]

Re:By This Logic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32348528)

Umm... Wrong topic...

Re:By This Logic... (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348542)

I think you may be lost, the article you are looking for is below. Tom...

Re:By This Logic... (2, Funny)

soilheart (1081051) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348808)

This is not the article you are looking for.

Slashdot discovers new element (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32348554)

Kudos to the editors for discovering "phosphorous".

Interesting (3, Interesting)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348788)

I thought that phosphorus was one of those elements that is never present in atomic form, it's so reactive it immediately oxidizes to form phosphorus compounds.

Does this mean the 7 atom transistor has to remain in a vacuum ?

Re:Interesting (4, Funny)

irreverant (1544263) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348866)

We move forward while we move back, if it needs to be in a vacuum then it would use a vacuum tube, while it's good for music it's bad for computers since we moved forward from these to transistors. I'm thoroughly confused now.

Re:Interesting (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349530)

if it needs to be in a vacuum then it would use a vacuum tube

It would have to be in a tube to be a vaccuum tube, but it would still be a transistor. The way a vaccuum tube works is electricity heats a filiment (cathode), analogous to a transistor's emitter, which throws out electrons and photons. There is a mesh, analogous to a transistor's gate, that the current to be amplified is fed to which controls controls how much energy reaches the tube's anode. The anode is analogous to a transistor's collector.

Even if this were inside a vaccume tube, it would still be a transistor, while an old-fashioned amplifier tube is not a transistor.

Re:Interesting (1)

ajrs (186276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349750)

if it needs to be in a vacuum then it would use a vacuum tube

It would have to be in a tube to be a vaccuum tube, but it would still be a transistor. The way a vaccuum tube works is electricity heats a filiment (cathode), analogous to a transistor's emitter, which throws out electrons and photons. There is a mesh, analogous to a transistor's gate, that the current to be amplified is fed to which controls controls how much energy reaches the tube's anode. The anode is analogous to a transistor's collector.

Even if this were inside a vaccume tube, it would still be a transistor, while an old-fashioned amplifier tube is not a transistor.

So, were talking about a series of tubes then?

Re:Interesting (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32351550)

I think I just found a new sig...

Re:Interesting (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348902)

If only there was some way we could enclose the whole active device in some form of vacuum assembly made from, say, a stable material like glass? Maybe we could also create a temperature controlled environment for the unit to ensure consistent operation by including perhaps a heater?

Re:Interesting (4, Interesting)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349162)

You can just keep it in an inert atmosphere or cover it in an inert insulator.

You can store phosphorus under oil relatively easily. No need for a vacuum per se.

Re:Interesting (1)

rockNme2349 (1414329) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349638)

Or you could just store it in a silicon crystal. That aught to do the trick...

Re:Interesting (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350126)

Silicon is a semiconductor itself - it may not be suitable if you pack millions of these little 7 atom transistors together, but who knows.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32350194)

What does silicon being a semiconductor have to do with it?

You *do* realize that phosphorus, boron, arsenic are already used and have been used for the past 30-40 years, right? It's how you make your silicon semiconductor go from megaohm resistivity to milliohm resistivity, and everywhere in between. Intrinsic silicon is much more like an insulator than a conductor.

Re:Interesting (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#32351456)

Yes, of course I do, but things change under different conditions, like a chip with an order of magnitude more transistors on it, operating at an order of magnitude faster than before.

I understand how N and P type semiconductors are made, but elements are not always uniform across temperature/pressure ranges - grey tin is a semiconductor below about 12 degrees C, but becomes a metal above that temperature.

At the scales we are talking about. things are not always how they seem.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32349360)

it's not like your cpu right now is exposed to oxygen and it's not in a vacuum, so what is the difference

Re:Interesting (1)

MattskEE (925706) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349966)

Current transistors use phosphorous, and it is not a problem. The phosphorous bonds to silicon atoms. But in the long term reactions will still happen. So all current chip dies have "die passivation", where the die is covered with something like silicon dioxide (glass), silicon nitride (ceramic), or maybe other things. It's a very effective hermetic seal.

wrong headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32348872)

Everybody always misses the point on these.

The problem with the single atom transistor is that you needed a machine the size of a room to use it; the headline here is that this could be replicated without that limitation... worlds smallest transistor circuit as apposed to worlds smallest transistor. Much more practically useful

Quantum (1)

dandart (1274360) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348876)

That may or may not be a transistor. Probably both.

Re:Quantum (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32349084)

Just like every Windows operating system, it may or may not work :P

Re:Quantum (1)

surveyork (1505897) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349256)

It is and it is not, until you look at it.

Re:Quantum (1)

dandart (1274360) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349492)

I know how quantum works, you insensitive clod! Actually, looking at it, I can see that it is a transistor. Phew.

Gonna be tough to solder! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32348900)

and how will you tell the three leads apart?

Re:Gonna be tough to solder! (3, Funny)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349240)

One atom has a tab

Re:Gonna be tough to solder! (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349898)

Same way you solder to individual CMOS transistors in any IC.

Very carefully.

Re:Gonna be tough to solder! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32350896)

and how will you tell the three leads apart?

And you thought SMD transistors were tough.

Not enough atoms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32348926)

What would happen if one of those atoms has radioactive decay?

6 Atom transistor (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348964)

That's good and all. Unless someone comes up with a 6 atom transistor. Then you're in trouble, huh?

Re:6 Atom transistor (1)

dohzer (867770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349112)

Step into my semiconductor fabrication laboratory, 'cos you're f**king fired!

Re:6 Atom transistor (2, Funny)

LHorstman (572584) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349458)

Would someone tell me how this happened? We were the fucking vanguard of quantum transistors in this country. The University of New South Wales' Centre for Quantum Computer Technology (CQCT) Mach7 was the quantum transistor to own. Then the other guy came out with a seven-atom transistor. Were we scared? Hell, no. Because we hit back with a little thing called the Mach7Turbo. That's seven atoms and an aloe strip. For moisture. But you know what happened next? Shut up, I'm telling you what happened--the bastards went to six atoms. Now we're standing around with our cocks in our hands, selling seven atoms and a strip. Moisture or no, suddenly we're the chumps. Well, fuck it. We're doing 5 atoms! [theonion.com]

Amazing what we get for news these days. (1)

RCC42 (1457439) | more than 4 years ago | (#32348986)

Seven atom transistors, quantum cryptography, nuclear and weather modeling applications and journals called "Nature Nanotechnology"...

Ladies and gentlemen, if this isn't the future then what is?

Re:Amazing what we get for news these days. (2, Insightful)

N0Man74 (1620447) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349068)

The present?

Re:Amazing what we get for news these days. (1)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349200)

fail, Wednesday May 26, @03:22PM is the past

Re:Amazing what we get for news these days. (1)

N0Man74 (1620447) | more than 4 years ago | (#32351108)

In my defense, at some point in the past, it was once the present.

Something to think about (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349006)

How does semiconductor doping works in these cases?

In "big" transistors, silicon is doped with other elements, to a very high ratio silicon/other element (can't remember, but I recall something aroung 10E6 ratio)

So when you have only seven atoms, what happens?? (ok, I guess this is already a problem with current tech, but still)

Re:Something to think about (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349314)

In "big" transistors, silicon is doped with other elements, to a very high ratio silicon/other element (can't remember, but I recall something aroung 10E6 ratio)

So when you have only seven atoms, what happens?? (ok, I guess this is already a problem with current tech, but still)

I'm guessing the doping ratio is somewhat higher, like 33% for the emitter and collector, and 66% for the base?

That does seem a wee bit high. I'd like to see a 4 atom diode, while you're at it.

Re:Something to think about (2, Informative)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349796)

Doping really isn't relevent here, since we're not talking CMOS or FET transistors. While it's still a transistor operationally, the structure is completely different, so there is no p- or n-type material, per-se.

What this is, is a quantum dot [wikipedia.org] which acts as a single electron transistor [wikipedia.org] . It's as different from a CMOS transistor as CMOS is from a vaccuum tube. So, asking for a doping ratio of a quantum dot transistor is like asking for the grid spacing of a CMOS, or the oxide thickness of a JFET: it doesn't exist.

Re:Something to think about (1)

imgod2u (812837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350524)

The headline is (again) inaccurate. It's not a 7-atom transistor, it's a transistor with 7 phosphorus atoms (dopant) inserted into the silicon crystal structure by placing the atoms using a tunneling microscope.

Applications (3, Insightful)

dohzer (867770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349020)

The seven-atom transistor has very hopeful implications for the future of quantum cryptography, nuclear and weather modeling, and other applications.

Why not just say that it will lead to faster computers?

Re:Applications (1)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32351392)

Why not just say that it will lead to faster computers?

There's no grant money for faster computers.

Overclockers beware! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32349038)

Instead of that all familiar "too hot" thermal sensor, now overclockers are going to have to open their case and check for a faint eerie glow (at which point it will be too late). Its a "cold" chemical reaction.

I do apologize for going there...

I'm waiting for next gen (1)

Nitewing98 (308560) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349150)

I'm always leery of new technology. I'll wait until the 7-atom transistor 2.0 is announced before I spring for one. They should have the bugs worked out by then.

Re:I'm waiting for next gen (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349828)

But it's software upgradable!

Imagine... (1)

PhilipOfOregon (771069) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349218)

... Imagine what you could do with a Beowulf cluster of these!

Wrong paper linked in article (2)

glenn.ramsey (1668759) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349260)

The paper linked in the article is regarding advances in optical storage.

Correct paper [nature.com]

That's fine and dandy but (1)

surveyork (1505897) | more than 4 years ago | (#32349278)

the big question is: Can it run Linux?

"Only" 4 nm? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350148)

The fact that a transistor with only 7 atoms is 4nm in size makes me think Moore's law is about to end. 4nm is only one order of magnitude less than what Intel is using in production now.

Re:"Only" 4 nm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32350492)

Not if we figure out how to make a device that acts like more transistors than its number of atoms.

Re:"Only" 4 nm? (1)

imgod2u (812837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350578)

It's not just 7 atoms. It's 7 phosphorus atoms inserted into a silicon crystal that's 4nm. A silicon atom is roughly ~0.4nm in diameter.

Re:"Only" 4 nm? (1)

tippe (1136385) | more than 4 years ago | (#32350900)

In general [wikipedia.org] , it's taken the semiconductor industry 10-20 years to shrink a process by an order of magnitude (e.g. 1995=350nm, 2010=32nm). 11nm isn't really expected until 2022 (that's mass production, not just tech demos which are typically several years ahead). Presumably the 4nm process, which is perhaps still a couple of process sizes smaller than 11nm, would happen some time after that. There are still a lot of hurdles between producing a technology demo in a lab setting and the point where you've developed it sufficiently that products based on that technology can be designed. I suspect it will take a fairly long time before you're able to buy a CPU based on a 4nm process...

Handling noise like the brain (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32350506)

The current theory is to treat the processor like the brain such that it can handle noise and failure. The brain is able to function just fine with loosing brain cells on a regular basis. If the computation is implemented correctly then the processor will be able to do the same. If you have a million nodes on a chip then why not treat it like google treats their cluster. Who cares if you loose a few nodes. The real question will come down to how fast and if they are clustered.

Re:Handling noise like the brain (1)

Trinn (523103) | more than 4 years ago | (#32351622)

The brain does more than just lose cells. Day to day transmission is incredibly noisy, with spurious signaling, suppressive and active signals that are actually quite chaotic, and yet underneath all this in a weird twist of things, transmission appears to be digital, just with absurd amounts of error correction built in.

Soldering (1)

mbstone (457308) | more than 4 years ago | (#32351518)

Every time I try to solder one of these newfangled transistors to the breadboard, the drop of solder overflows, from the atom I am trying to connect over onto one of the other atoms, and the two atoms converge in a glob of molten solder causing a short circuit. I can never get the glob of solder off of the other atom after that.

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