University of Alberta engineers believe the thin film transistor (TFT) they’ve developed could revolutionize thin film electronic devices. They claim it has the capacity to handle 10 times the power of commercially printed thin film transistors.

The team looked at applications for thin film transistors and found them lacking. While there have been many attempts to increase their performance, the challenges of developing new materials or improving on existing ones has hampered advances. The team believed they could improve on existing materials. They increased performance by designing a transistor architecture that takes advantage of bipolar action.

Rather than using a single charge carrier, the architecture uses electrons and the absence of electrons (holes) to create electrical output. This led to forming an inversion hole layer in a wide-bandgap semiconductor. Once that was done, the researchers were able to construct a combination of semiconductor and insulating layers, into which they inject holes at the MOS interface. The holes increased electron tunneling across a dielectric barrier, yielding a transistor that behaves like a bipolar transistor. While tunneling current normally leads to heat and power loss, the researchers say they have been able to use it as a benefit.

The thin-film transistor has the ability to be scaled to improve performance and stay on track with miniaturization. The researchers predict the TFT will find applications in flexible electronics that range from display to medical imaging and energy.

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