Transparent transistors developed

Thursday, 07 February, 2019

Transparent transistors developed

Saudi Arabian researchers have responded to the growing worldwide demand for transparent conducting oxides for use in solar cells, flat panel displays, smart windows and semiconductor-based consumer electronics, engineering a zinc-oxide-based transparent material that displays tuneable electronic properties depending on the tweaking of a new type of dopant.

Transparent electronics rely on indium tin oxide, a transparent and electrically conductive material that has an exorbitant cost due to the scarcity of indium. Zinc-oxide-based materials, such as hafnium-doped zinc-oxide materials, are expected to offer affordable, green and abundant alternatives to indium tin oxide. However, hafnium-doped zinc-oxide materials typically require high deposition temperatures and display inadequate performance for real-life device applications.

Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), led by Husam Alshareef, have now developed an approach that generates transparent thin-film transistors from a single hafnium–zinc oxide (HZO) composite by simply varying metal oxide ratios in the different transistor layers. Their work has been published in the journal Small.

Thin-film transistors generally comprise electrode, dielectric and channel layers that are deposited on a substrate from various conducting, insulating and semiconducting materials. They also require different reactors and thin-film deposition equipment.

“The electronic properties of HZO can be tuned from conducting to semiconducting to insulating in a highly controlled fashion by simply changing the zinc-oxide/hafnium-dioxide precursor ratio,” said PhD student Fwzah Alshammari, who performed most of the experiments. The entire transistor is thus made from one binary oxide in a single reaction chamber.

“This ultimately reduces the fabrication cost and time, which are crucial for mass production,” Alshammari added.

Varying hafnium and zinc precursor ratios produce conducting (left), insulating (centre) and semiconducting HZO materials (right). Image courtesy of the study authors.

The all-HZO transistors are said to exhibit excellent electrical properties on glass and plastics, demonstrating their potential for high-resolution transparent and flexible displays. They also show outstanding performance when incorporated in circuits, such as inverters and ring oscillators, suggesting their viability and scalability.

The team is planning to fabricate more complex circuits over larger areas to demonstrate the full potential of their approach for consumer electronics.

Image caption: The all-HZO transistors provide fully transparent devices with outstanding electrical properties on glass (left) and plastic supports (right). Image courtesy of the study authors.

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