Single-electron devices and circuits: An alternative route to conventional computing

Author: M. Fernando Gonzalez Zalba


Over the past decades, transistors, the workhorses of the semiconductor industry, have been scaled down in size to increase the performance and reduce the power consumption of microelectronic circuits. However, the downscaling of conventional transistors is bound to reach its fundamental limit as the critical dimensions of the devices head to the atomic scale.

I will introduce single electron devices and circuits as an alternative route to transistor-based computing. These novel devices, such as the Single-electron Transistor and the Single-Atom Transistor, base their functionality on the discreteness of charge as only a stream of single electrons flows through the structure. This phenomenon, known as Coulomb Blockade, gives single-electron devices non-monotonic I-V characteristics allowing them to perform complex logic operations. I will present examples of how single-electron devices, circuits and architectures can perform more efficiently that their equivalent transistor designs.