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Silicon Breakthrough Could Make Key Microwave Technology Muc

2018-05-25
Researchers using powerful supercomputers have found a way to generate microwaves with inexpensive silicon, a breakthrough that could dramatically cut costs and improve devices such as sensors in self-driving vehicles.

High-frequency microwaves carry signals in a wide range of devices, including the radar units police use to catch speeders and collision-avoidance systems in cars.

The microwaves are typically generated by devices called Gunn diodes, which take advantage of the unique properties of expensive and toxic semiconductor materials such as gallium arsenide.

The second-most abundant substance on earth, silicon would be far easier to work with for manufacturing and costs about one-twentieth as much as gallium arsenide.

The new technology involves silicon nanowires so tiny it would take 100,000 of them bundled together to equal the thickness of a human hair.

Complex computer models showed that if silicon nanowires were stretched as voltage was applied to them, the Gunn effect, and therefore the emission of microwaves, could be induced.
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