Germanium Can Take Transistors Where Silicon Can’t

Germanium Can Take Transistors Where Silicon Can’t

Germanium was an early transistor material. Now its charge-carrying abilities and advanced fabrication technology make it an attractive material for future chips. As a proof of concept, our team used germanium-on-insulator wafers to construct inverters containing first planar transistors and then FinFETs 

Germanium was first isolated and identified by the German chemist Clemens Winkler in the late 19th century. Named in honor of Winkler’s homeland, the material was long considered a poor conducting metal. That changed during World War II, when germanium’s semiconducting properties—that is, its ability to switch between permitting and blocking the flow of current—were discovered. Solid-state devices based on germanium boomed in the postwar years; U.S. production grew from a few hundred pounds in 1946 to meet a demand for over 45 metric tons of the stuff by 1960. But silicon ultimately won out; it became the material of choice for logic and memory chips.


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