Researchers at Rice University in the US claim their research with graphene could lead to a new, vastly efficient form of transistor.
The “triple-mode, single transistor” amplifiers - based on the graphene material that last week won its discoverers a Nobel prize - could become a key component in allowing computation in a smaller footprint.
Whereas traditional silicon transistors are either negative or positive carriers of electricity depending on how they are fabricated, an ambipolar transistor made from graphene could switch between states.
During operation, the transistor could operate as either positive or negative or both at the same time, the scientists said, adding that the concept could be likened to a tap.
"Turn it on and the water flows," said Kartik Mohanram, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice. "Turn it off and the water stops. That's what a traditional transistor does. It's a unipolar device; it only opens and closes in one direction.
"But if you close a tap too much, it opens again and water flows. That's what ambipolarity is - current can flow when you open the transistor in either direction about a point of minimum conduction."
The third mode of the transistor comes into effect when the input from the positive and negative carriers is equal.
The researchers claim the third state opens up potential performance enhancements for computers, with a single triple-mode graphene transistor potentially replacing many in a typical integrated circuit.
This article originally appeared at pcpro.co.uk