European Scientists Begin Next Generation Chip Research with Indium Gallium Arsenide to Replace Silicon

European scientists from both academia and industry have begun an ambitious new research project focused on an alternative approach to extend Moore’s Law. The goal is to reduce costs and improve the energy efficiency of electronic devices ranging from mobile phones to supercomputers. The research project, called COMPOSE³, is based on the use of new materials to replace today’s silicon, and on taking an innovative design approach where transistors are stacked vertically, known as 3D stacking.

Moore’s Law predicted that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit will double every 18 months, leading to a drastic reduction in the cost per digital function. First observed more than 50 years ago, this law has now reached its limits due to shrinking chip geometries. For example a processor’s clock speed has barely increased in the past five years, with typical operating frequencies at 2–3 GHz. In addition, energy consumption of electronic devices is growing at a staggering rate with estimates reporting that it accounts for up to 10 percent of the total electrical energy generated in industrialized countries.

To address these challenges, scientists will develop a static random-access memory (SRAM) cell based on two novel materials, indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) and silicon germanium (SiGe), which replace silicon in the heart of the transistor. SRAM is an essential circuit component found in processors in a wide range of applications from smartphones to high-performance computers.

“This technology will provide a new paradigm shift in density scaling combined with a dramatic increase in the power efficiency of CMOS circuits. Our synergistic approach is based on replacing silicon with high-mobility channel materials such as SiGe and InGaAs,” said Dr. Jean Fompeyrine, manager of the Advanced Functional Materials group at IBM Research – Zurich.

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