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Scientists make significant breakthrough in microchip technology that could forever change our electronics: ‘It can open up a new realm’

In World
June 15, 2024

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley may have just unlocked the secret to making electronic devices smaller and more efficient, using tiny electronic components called microcapacitors, SciTechDaily reported.

The microcapacitors could allow energy to be stored directly on the devices’ microchips, minimizing the energy losses that occur as energy is transferred between the devices’ different parts.

The Berkeley scientists engineered the microcapacitors with thin films of hafnium oxide and zirconium oxide, achieving record-high energy and power densities. They published their findings in the journal Nature.

As with many scientific discoveries, the researchers behind it had been working on the problem for years but ended up being surprised with how good their results were.

“The energy and power density we got are much higher than we expected,” said Sayeef Salahuddin, the UC Berkeley professor who led the project. “We’ve been developing negative capacitance materials for many years, but these results were quite surprising.”

The discovery could lead directly to smaller and more efficient electronic devices, such as phones, sensors, personal computers, and more.

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“With this technology, we can finally start to realize energy storage and power delivery seamlessly integrated on-chip in very small sizes,” said Suraj Cheema, one of the researchers and co-lead author of the paper. “It can open up a new realm of energy technologies for microelectronics.”

Much of the research happening in and around the realm of clean energy is currently focused on improving battery technology — and as we have seen, this problem can be attacked from a wide variety of angles, from making batteries more efficient, to creating them using less environmentally harmful materials, to devising ways to manufacture them more cheaply.

All of these approaches, in their own way, aid in the efforts to move beyond the dirty energy sources — mainly gas and oil — that contribute massive amounts of air pollution and have led to the overheating of our planet. By making clean energy and battery storage more viable, any one of these breakthroughs could potentially have a huge positive impact.

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