Researchers at Oregon State University have created for the first time a high-performance “metal-insulator-metal” diode. High speed computers and electronics that don’t depend on transistors are possibilities. Also on the horizon are “energy harvesting” technologies such as the nighttime capture of re-radiated solar energy, a way to produce energy from the Earth as it cools during the night. This could be a way to simply print electronics on a huge size scale even less expensively than we can now. And when the products begin to emerge the increase in speed of operation could be enormous.
This is a fundamental change in the way you could produce electronic products, at high speed on a huge scale at very low cost, even less than with conventional methods. It’s a basic way to eliminate the current speed limitations of electrons that have to move through materials.
A metal-insulator-metal, or MIM diode can be used to perform some of the same functions, but in a fundamentally different way as conventional electronics. In this system, the device is like a sandwich, with the insulator in the middle and two layers of metal above and below it. In order to function, the electron doesn’t so much move through the materials as it “tunnels” through the insulator – almost instantaneously appearing on the other side.
MIM diodes could probably be used with a range of metals that are inexpensive and easily available, like copper, nickel or aluminum. It’s also much simpler, less costly and easier to fabricate
Amorphous metal thin films with atomically smooth surfaces are employed as contact layers for the realization of metal-insulator-metal (MIM) devices operating on the basis of controlled quantum mechanical tunneling through an ultrathin dielectric.