A nanoscale device that is 100 times faster than transistors in your computer

A nanoscale device that is 100 times faster than transistors in your computer

Researchers at EPFL have developed a nanodevice that operates more than 10 times faster than today’s fastest transistors, and about 100 times faster than the transistors you have on your computers. This new device enables the generation of high-power terahertz waves.

These waves, which are notoriously difficult to produce, are useful in a rich variety of applications ranging from imaging and sensing to high-speed wireless communications. The high-power picosecond operation of these device also hold immense promise to some advanced medical treatment techniques such as cancer therapy. The team’s pioneering compact source, described today in Nature, paves the way for untold new applications.

Terahertz (THz) waves fall between microwave and infrared radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum, oscillating at frequencies of between 100 billion and 30 trillion cycles per second. These waves are prized for their distinctive properties: they can penetrate paper, clothing, wood and walls, as well as detect air pollution. THz sources could revolutionize security and medical imaging systems. What’s more, their ability to carry vast quantities of data could hold the key to faster wireless communications.

THz waves are a type of non-ionizing radiation, meaning they pose no risk to human health. The technology is already used in some airports to scan passengers and detect dangerous objects and substances.

Despite holding great promise, THz waves are not widely used because they are costly and cumbersome to generate. But new technology developed by researchers at EPFL could change all that. The team at the Power and Wide-band-gap Electronics Research Laboratory (POWERlab), led by Prof. Elison Matioli, built a nanodevice (1 nanometer = 1 millionth of a millimeter) that can generate extremely high-power signals in just a few picoseconds, or one trillionth of a second, – which produces high-power THz waves.

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Source: “A nanoscale device that can see through walls”, Laure-Anne Pessina, EPFL News