The technology could reduce energy consumption in mobile devices and computers by tapping into the power of a single electron to control energy consumption inside transistors, which are at the core of most modern electronic systems.
Researchers from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas found that by adding a specific atomic thin film layer to a transistor, the layer acted as a filter for the energy that passed through it at room temperature.
The signal that resulted from the device was six to seven times steeper than that of traditional devices. Steep devices use less voltage but still have a strong signal.
"The whole semiconductor industry is looking for steep devices because they are key to having small, powerful, mobile devices with many functions that operate quickly without spending a lot of battery power," said Dr Jiyoung Kim, professor of materials science and an author of the paper.
"Our device is one solution to make this happen," said Kim.
Tapping into the unique and subtle behaviour of a single electron is the most energy-efficient way to transmit signals in electronic devices.
Since the signal is so small, it can be easily diluted by thermal noises at room temperature.
To see this quantum signal, engineers and scientists who build electronic devices typically use external cooling techniques to compensate for the thermal energy in the electron environment.
The filter created by researchers is one route to effectively filter out the thermal noise.
Dr Kyeongjae "KJ" Cho, professor of materials science and engineering and physics and an author of the paper, said transistors made from this filtering technique could revolutionise the semiconductor industry.
"Having to cool the thermal spread in modern transistors limits how small consumer electronics can be made," said Cho.
"We devised a technique to cool the electrons internally — allowing reduction in operating voltage — so that we can create even smaller, more power efficient devices," said Cho.
Each time a device such as a smartphone or a tablet computes it requires electrical power for operation. Reducing operating voltage would mean longer shelf lives for these products and others.
Lower power devices could mean computers worn with or on top of clothing that would not require an outside power source, among other things, researchers said.
To create the technology, researchers added a chromium oxide thin film onto the device. That layer, at room temperature, filtered the cooler, stable electrons and provided stability to the device.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.