A new EU-funded project will seek to develop the next generation of ultra-low energy consumption electronics.
The E2SWITCH project will look to advance tunnel field-effect transistor (TFET) technology, which relies on the quantum mechanical effect of quantum tunnelling to operate at voltages up to five times lower than those used in a standard mobile phone circuit.
The technology could have multiple applications in mobile technology, from smartphones to wearable devices, but also for electricity-hungry data centres and even aerospace and automotive applications thanks to its greater temperature tolerance.
The €4.3m (£3.4m) project will run for three-and-a-half years and will involve a coalition of universities, research institutes and companies, including IBM, CCS and SCIPROM, coordinated by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
“Our objective is to make the next generation of transistors, which can still operate at voltages below 0.3V and even as low as 0.1V," said Adrian Ionescu, EPFL professor and the coordinator of E2SWITCH.
“Our new technology will not only consume less energy, but will be more stable over a wider temperature range, opening the possibility for more robust applications in the automotive and aerospace fields."
IBM’s participation in the project was motivated by the growing need for more efficient servers to power cloud computing and big data applications, which represents a rapidly rising proportion of global electricity costs.
“Power dissipation is a fundamental challenge for nano-electronic circuits. Within E2SWITCH we aim to significantly reduce the power consumption of electronics by researching TFETs based on III-V heterostructure nanowires with wrap-around gate and directly integrated on standard silicon substrates,” said Dr Heike Riel, Fellow at IBM Research in Zurich.