Korean researchers develop ternary semiconductor tech

Future semiconductors may perform logic with 0, 1, or 2 instead of the current binary system of 0 and 1 with the new technology.
Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributing Writer
(Image: UNIST)

A South Korean research team has successfully realised an energy-efficient ternary metal-oxide semiconductor on a large-sized wafer.

Professor Kyung Rok Kim of UNIST's Electrical & Computer Engineering Department and his team successfully created a semiconductor that operates in a ternary logic system instead of the current binary. The results of the test were published in scientific journal Nature Electronics.

Using the ternary system of 0, 1, 2 lessens the amount of information semiconductors need to process and does it faster, resulting in less power consumption, the team said. It will also help in miniaturising chips further.

For example, to express the number 128 in the current binary system, 8 "bits" will be required. With the ternary system, only 5 "trits" will be required.

See also: Samsung begins mass production of its own 5G chips

Power leakage is a major obstacle in making semiconductors smaller. Packing more circuits in a smaller space exasperates the so-called tunneling effect that increases power leakage, which in turn requires devices to consume more electricity.

In their test, Kim's team deployed the ternary logic system dependent on the amount of power leakage to manage power output of devices.

Professor Kim said if the semiconductor technology is commercialised, it could be a paradigm shifter that positively affects industries such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, Internet of Things, biochips and robots, all where semiconductors play a crucial role.

Samsung Electronics has been backing Kim's research since September 2017 via its Samsung's Science & Technology Foundation, which offers grants for promising technology projects.

Samsung is currently verifying the technology at its foundry business-run fab.

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