A new transistor design out of the University of Cambridge could allow electronic devices to function for months or even years without a battery charge—or even a battery. This comes out of a study in the journal Science.
To explain their work, Cambridge scientists use the analogy of water dripping from a leaky tap. Leakage—not of water, but of power—is a problem all transistors face. But Sungsik Lee and Arokia Nathan, both of Cambridge's Department of Engineering, have figured out how to use this leaky power.
By making use of something called the Schottky barrier—the point where the metal of a semiconductor comes into contact with its semiconducting material—the scientists were able to make transistors that can run basically on power leakage alone, much in the same way a computer can go to sleep and maintain its state without drawing much power.
"We've found that these Schottky barriers actually have the ideal characteristics for the type of ultralow power applications we're looking at, such as wearable or implantable electronics for health monitoring," Nathan says.
"If we were to draw energy from a typical AA battery based on this design, it would last for a billion years," according to Lee.
Nathan sees specific uses for the new transistor design in the Internet of Things, and the innovation could allow for devices that hardly ever need to be charged or plugged in. That is, if hackers don't destroy the system first.