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Electronic Design

Tunneltron May Be New Basic Component

A new basic electronic component may result from research under way in at least two organizations. Developed so far is a simple thin-film device that operates at cryogenic temperatures and exhibits superconductivity, tunneling, and negative resistance. Because the three phenomena have been combined in one device, designers may have, by 1965, a basic component that could function as a switch, resistor, capacitor, diode, triode, or negative-resistance diode.

This estimate was made by scientists of the GE Research Labs, Schenectady, N.Y., in reporting on how they achieve tunneling in superconductive devices. Researchers at A.D. Little, Inc., Cambridge, Mass., report they have independently achieved tunneling and negative resistance in similar devices, which they call tunneltrons. The ADL researchers believe tunneltrons will prove compatible with other low-temperature devices, such as cryotrons.

In both GE's and ADL's devices, tunneling takes place through a nominal dielectric rather than through the charge-depletion region of a semiconductor junction, as in the tunnel diode. In the thin-film device, the amount of negative resistance present can be controlled. (Electronic Design, Dec. 7, 1960, p. 4)

Programs like this, investigating exotic new semiconductor devices, continued throughout the '60s. It's too bad that the developers couldn't foresee the rapid improvements in existing semiconductor devices and the tremendous impact of the fledgling integrated circuits just coming out from Texas Instruments and Fairchild.

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