Researchers create electronic diodes that exceed 5G performance

Physicist David Storm and electrical engineer Tyler Growden are both engineers of the US Naval Research Laboratory. They have developed a new electronic component based on gallium nitride. Called Resonant Tunneling Diode (RTD), its performance exceeds the expected speed of 5G.

Storm and Growden's electronic component diode research findings have been published in the academic journal "Applied Physics Letters" on March 19, 2020. Growden said: "Our work shows that gallium nitride-based RTDs are not as slow as others have said, they are basically equivalent in frequency and output power to RTDs of different materials."

Diodes enable the extremely fast transmission of electrons using a phenomenon called quantum tunneling. In this tunneling, electrons generate electric current by moving through physical barriers, thereby exploiting their ability to act as both particles and waves.

Storm and Growden ’s designs for gallium nitride based diodes show record current output and switching speeds, making possible electromagnetic applications requiring millimeter-wave regions and terahertz frequencies, which may include communications, networking, and sensing.

The team developed a repeatable process to increase the yield of diodes to approximately 90%. The previous typical yield range was about 20%.

Storm said that it is very difficult to achieve efficient and operable tunneling devices because they require atomically sharp interfaces and are very sensitive to many sources of scattering and leakage. Sample preparation, uniform growth, and a controlled manufacturing process at each step are key factors for satisfactory diode results on the chip.

Storm said: "Until now, from a manufacturing point of view, GaN is still difficult to use. Our high yield is as simple as falling from a log, which is largely due to our design."

Storm and Growden said they are committed to continue to improve their RTD design to improve current output without losing power potential. They performed this work with colleagues at Ohio State University, White State University, and industry partners.

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