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Newly Developed Nanodiode Is One of Smallest Devices Ever Made

Published: Monday, July 19, 2004 - 21:00

GE recently announced the development of the world’s best performing diode built from a carbon nanotube, a device the company claims is the smallest functioning tool ever made.

The GE Nanotechnology Advanced Technology program reports that the new device could be used to build the next generation of advanced sensors, which will have unsurpassed levels of sensitivity. For example, they could be used to detect potential terrorist threats from chemical and biological hazards, even if they are present in extremely small quantities.

“Just as silicon transistors replaced old vacuum tube technology and enabled the electronic age, carbon nanotube devices could open a new era of electronics,” says Margaret Blohm, GE’s advanced technology leader for nanotechnology. “We are excited about this breakthrough and we’re eager to start developing new applications for the GE businesses.”

The breakthrough comes very close to the theoretical limits of performance. Measured through the ideal diode equation developed by Nobel Laureate William Shockley, the new diode has an ideality factor very close to one, which is the best possible performance for a diode.

Diodes are fundamental semiconductor devices that form the basic building blocks of electronic devices such as transistors, computer chips, sensors and light-emitting diodes. Unlike traditional diodes, GE’s carbon nanotube device has the ability for multiple functions—as a diode and two different types of transistors—which should enable it to both emit and detect light.

The device was developed by Ji-Ung Lee, a scientist working in GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York. Additional research is already underway to enhance the carbon nanotube diode and increase the yield in the manufacturing process. The researchers believe the work could enable a range of important new applications in computing, communications, power electronics and sensors.

For more information, visit www.ge.com.

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