GERMANIUM | Purified germanium
semiconductors developed by Purdue
physicists provided a critical part of the
world’s first transistor in 1947. They
were ultimately replaced by silicon.
Germanium, however, could soon make
a stunning return to the semiconductor
Peide Ye, a professor of electrical and
computer engineering, is leading a team
exploring new uses for germanium,
which has a higher mobility of
electrons and holes than silicon. This
makes for ultra-fast circuits that are
used in complementary metal-oxide-
semiconductor (CMOS) devices.
Ye’s team has created the first modern
CMOS device. The material had
previously been limited to “P-type”
transistors. Now, the researchers have
shown how to make “N-type” transistors.
Because both types of transistors are
needed for CMOS circuits, the work
points to possible applications for
germanium in computers and electronics.
Silicon is used to fabricate computer
chips, powering everything from
smartwatches to supercomputer clusters.
But with technological advances quickly
outpacing silicon’s capabilities, the
semiconductor industry will soon reach
the smallest silicon transistor size
possible, threatening future advances.
“This study provides strong evidence of
germanium as a promising candidate to
replace silicon in future low-power and
high-speed CMOS logic applications,” Ye
and his co-authors write. | L. T.
A Promising Candidate to Overcome Silicon’s Limitations