Sanyo Electric Co claims to have developed a superconducting transistor that is 10 times faster than current semiconductors and draws less than one-hundredth as much power – and sees it ultimately being used in highly sensitive microwave communications systems, and in supercomputers capable of very high speeds. But don’t hold your breath – the device isn’t likely to be available for commercial use until next century. The transistor uses a thin, high-temperature superconductor film made of Barium Potassium Bismuth Oxide, which is deposited on an oxide semiconductor so that it is only one crystal deep. The thin film creates a junction in which electrons move under the laws of quantum mechanics – the tunnel effect, rather than conventional electron flow, resulting in high speeds and low power consumption. The tunnel effect enables electrons to tunnel through thin barriers at very high speed under given conditions and by varying the conditions, the flow of electrons through the transistor can be regulated; Sanyo claims that its device is the first to combine tunnel effect and high temperature superconduction in one device.
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