Surrey scientists herald a new design approach for electronics

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Researchers from the the University of Surrey have unveiled a device with unique functionality that could signal a new approach to designing electronics, including next-generation wearables and eco-disposable sensors.

In a study, published in Advanced Intelligent Systems, researchers from the university have detailed how the device, called a Multimodal Transistor (MMT), is able to overcome long-standing challenges and perform the same operations as more complex circuits.

The MMT has demonstrated immunity to parasitic effects that reduce a transistor’s capacity to produce uniform, repeatable signals. These have hindered traditional “floating gate” designs since they were developed in 1967, but this new structure promises efficient analogue computation for robotic control, AI and unsupervised machine learning.

Traditionally, gate electrodes are used to control a transistor’s ability to pass current. With Surrey’s device, on/off switching is controlled independently from the amount of current passing through the structure. This allows the MMT to operate at a higher speed than comparable devices and to have a linear dependence between input and output, essential for ultra-compact digital-to-analogue conversion. This also gives engineers much greater freedom of design, which could lead to greatly simplified circuits.

According to Dr Radu Sporea, Project Lead and Senior Lecturer in Semiconductor Devices at the University of Surrey, “Our Multimodal Transistor is a paradigm shift in transistor design. It could change how we create future electronic circuits. Despite its elegantly simple footprint, it truly punches above its weight and could be the key enabler for future wearables and gadgets beyond the current Internet of Things.”

Dr Sporea has secured an Early Career Fellowship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council worth more than £1million to support the further development of the MMT.